NORTH ROYALTON — The matchup to watch couldn’t be more clear.
Berea-Midpark’s Stasha Carey is hard to miss. The 6-foot-3 senior is an ESPN.com four-star recruit committed to Pittsburgh, the 12th-ranked center in the country and averages 18.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks.
Without a player taller than 5-11, Wadsworth (25-1) knows the challenge heading into tonight’s Division I regional semifinal against the Titans (23-2) at North Royalton.
The winner advances to face Toledo Notre Dame or Magnificat at a site and date to be determined.
“They have Stasha Carey, who’s very good in the post, they have 3-point shooters and they can handle the ball,” Grizzlies point guard Hannah Centea said Monday. “What we went over was limiting (Carey’s) touches. We can’t let the ball in (the post).”
Ranked eighth in the final Associated Press state poll — Wadsworth was fourth — Berea-Midpark is in its first year of existence after the Berea Braves and Midpark Meteors consolidated. The Titans easily won the Southwestern Conference, and their losses are to regional qualifiers Magnificat (58-56) and Canton McKinley (57-48).
Even with the impressive resume, Berea-Midpark was the talk of Northeast Ohio after needing a blocked shot by Carey in the final seconds to survive Cloverleaf, the sixth-place team in the Suburban League, in the Valley Forge District semifinals.
But Berea-Midpark held on and won the bracket with a 58-46 victory over Wooster, which needed overtime to beat Medina in the sectional finals.
The Titans also feature 5-6 senior point guard Jess Barnes (8.8 ppg, 6.6 apg) and 5-7 senior wing Becca Ziska (8.0 ppg, 54 3-pointers).
“We need to come out with more intensity, more readiness and know our personnel,” Centea said.
The Wadsworth game plan will involve help defense against Carey with the hope the Meteors are forced to beat the Grizzlies using other players as scorers.
That’s no easy task, but Wadsworth feels it’s mentally ready for the challenge.
“Definitely help-side (defense) and ball pressure,” power forward Laurel Palitto said. “You can’t let the easy pass get in there.”
The Grizzlies counter with quick yet physical defense (30.0 ppg) and balanced scoring. Although sophomore Jodi Johnson leads the way at 14.7 points, New Hampshire recruit Peyton Booth (8.4), Taylor Wyatt (6.7), Centea (5.8), Madison Gilger (5.5), Olivia Thompson (4.5) and Aubrey Virgin (4.5) all put up at least four.
It’s not like Wadsworth hasn’t faced big-time D-I prospects, either, as it owns a win over Toledo Rogers at the Classic in the Country. The Rams have six D-I commits on their roster and will battle Lima Bath — another top-flight team Wadsworth defeated this season — in the D-II regional semis.
“We really have to start playing more as a team — look for the open person and make the extra pass,” Palitto said.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.