SHAKER HTS. — Branden Wilkins was a physical force, Mike Kaminski provided critical buckets and Craig Randall worked his magic late for the Medina boys basketball team.
Shaker Heights, however, simply had too much firepower to be stopped Friday night.
Junior power forward Esa Ahmad collected 17 points and 13 rebounds and senior small forward Rosel Hurley added 14 points as the Raiders held off the Bees 69-63 in a Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division showdown.
The victory gave Shaker Heights (17-4, 8-1) a one-game lead over Medina (16-4, 7-2) in the league with one contest to play — and bragging rights as the best squad in Northeast Ohio going into the tournament.
“That was one heck of a ballgame between two very good basketball teams,” Bees coach Anthony Stacey said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top, but I love the way our guys came out and battled in a real tough gym for visiting teams.
“Shaker Heights made a lot of plays down the stretch, so I congratulate them. Danny (Young) does a great job and his kids played outstanding.”
The Raiders built a trio of 11-point leads in the middle periods, but Medina did not back down, pulling within one possession three times in the fourth.
Senior power forward Wilkins (16 points, team-high 10 rebounds) kept the Bees within striking range by getting to the line and making 8-of-11 free throws. Despite giving up several inches, he did an exceptional job denying Ahmad — arguably the top 11th-grader in Ohio — from receiving entry passes all evening.
“Branden fought all night on both ends of the floor and was terrific on offense and defense,” Stacey said. “We knew it was important to limit Ahmad’s touches, and Branden took that to heart by holding him to (two) shots in the first half.”
Shaker Heights held a 63-55 lead with 2:04 left when Randall (17 points, 6-for-19 shooting, game-high 4 assists) went to work, scoring on consecutive possessions to pull Medina within four.
After Raiders shooting guard Kaleb Roy split two free throws, Kaminski (10 points) nailed a jumper to cut the Bees’ deficit to 64-61.
Center Courtney Mays made 1-of-2 foul shots with 32 seconds remaining for Shaker Heights, but junior shooting guard Randall scored again to pull Medina within 65-63.
The Raiders put the win on ice when Roy made two free throws and the Bees fumbled the ball out of bounds with 5 ticks on the clock.
“We’ve been getting a lot more balanced scoring lately, which is what you need to beat outstanding teams like Medina,” Young said. “People always focus on Esa, but we’ve got T.J. Steele, Rosel Hurley, Kaleb Roy; all of whom are capable of reaching double-figures at any time like they did tonight.”
Shaker Heights, which was three days removed from a win over St. Edward, the top-ranked team in Ohio, also received 13 points and four steals from Steele and 11 points from Roy.
Sophomore center Jon Teske had six points, five rebounds and seven blocked shots for Medina, while junior small forward Evan Schreck had six points and junior guard Zach Bennett chipped in five points and three assists.
The Bees made 17-of-22 free throws, but committed seven of their 24 turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“These are two of the top five teams in the area, so this was the kind of game that will help both of us going into the tournament,” said Young, whose team wraps up its regular season with an NOC game against Brunswick.
“We’ve stressed a couple of quotes to our kids of late. One of them is, ‘We don’t want to be the target, we want to be the arrow.’ That’s going to be key because a lot of schools will be coming after us and Medina in the near future.”
Shaker Heights was a 50-47 winner in the junior varsity game. Ben Geschke led Medina with 14 points.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.