WADSWORTH — The stay at No. 1 will be brief.
That’s fine with the Wadsworth girls basketball team’s players and coaches following a 55-47 non-league loss to Solon on Wednesday. They know a deep run in March is all that matters.
Even still, losing to the very, very good Comets (17-3) wasn’t acceptable just one day after obtaining the top spot in The Associated Press Division I state poll.
“One of our goals was not going undefeated and one of our goals was not to be wherever we were in the state poll,” Grizzlies coach Andrew Booth said. “Our goals are to play 30 games and win the Suburban League. Those are still in front of us, but it’s time to get back to work and try to get better.
“I hate to lose and the kids hate to lose — they’re as competitive of a group that we’ve ever had here in my nine years — but if you can learn something from it, learn multiple things from it — which I think we can because we’re a cerebral group — this game is definitely worth it.”
Wadsworth (19-1) didn’t play poorly despite 5-for-22 shooting in the second half and trimmed a double-digit deficit to two points in the third quarter.
The bottom line, though, was Solon, which has defeated 15-win Stow (twice), 12-win Walsh Jesuit, 13-win Mentor and 19-win Wadsworth during its five-game win streak, played a near-perfect game.
Led by arguably the top backcourt in Northeast Ohio — Maryland recruit Kristen Confroy (14 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) and highly underrated point guard Jordan Bekelja (14) — the Comets made their first seven shot attempts and finished the game 23-for-41 (.561).
The Grizzlies trailed 22-11 after one quarter.
“They had 20 points before I even knew what was going on,” Booth said. “Not that we didn’t come ready to play, but they really got off to a great start and that set the tone.”
Peyton Booth was Wadsworth’s only consistent threat with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. Backup marksman Taylor Wyatt added 10 points, but great defense by Bekelja limited point guard Hannah Centea to three points on 1-for-5 shooting and Medina County leading scorer Jodi Johnson (9 points) was ineffective at 1-for-6.
Solon took charge by breaking Wadsworth’s pressure and playing unselfishly in the half court. The Comets scored in a variety of ways, be it from the 3-point line (4-for-10 in first half), in transition or hitting players off curls in the paint.
The Grizzlies got back in the thick of it in the second quarter, but still trailed 32-28 at halftime.
“We started to get some stops, finally,” Peyton Booth said. “The game was going to come down to defense regardless, and our defense wasn’t where it needed to be tonight.”
Wadsworth made two charges in the second half, as Johnson made it 32-30 with two free throws. The Comets pulled away again and led 47-37 early in the fourth, but two more Johnson freebies trimmed that to 47-43 with 2:56 left.
That was all she wrote for Wadsworth, however, as two untimely turnovers and a handful of bricks contributed to its demise. Bekelja pushed the spread back to six with free throws — the Comets’ first attempts of the game with 2:43 remaining — then her younger sister, Dee (15 points), broke free for layups.
“They played great,” Peyton Booth said. “They’re a great team, and for us to be as good as we want to be, we have to be able to compete and play with great teams when they play great like (Solon) did.
“They shot lights out. We were down 11 and made a comeback, but we couldn’t keep it going, I guess.”
“Definitely credit to Solon. I think they played a whale of a game,” Andrew Booth added. “We told the kids, ‘That’s the kind of team we’re going to have to beat if you want to get to the state level.’”
Led by Medina County Sports Hall of Famer Tonya (Ross) Dolata, 1999-2000 Buckeye remains the only team in county history to finish a regular season undefeated.
• Wadsworth great Kate (Lyren) Sondles, who hit the layup as time expired to win the 1997 Division I state championship, and then-coach Todd Osborn were in attendance. Current players from Highland and Revere were spotted in the crowd as well.
• Jenna Johnson had 13 points as the Grizzlies’ junior varsity won 44-13.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.