August 29, 2014

Medina
Mostly clear
50°F

Dulik commentary: Three games and three times the heartache

Very few girls basketball teams in Ohio have put together a better three-year run than Wadsworth.

The Grizzlies claimed back-to-back-to-back Suburban League titles, a trio of Medina District championships and advanced to the regional finals of each season.

There was only one task that Wadsworth was unable to accomplish — and it occurred against the same team in the same gym in all three years.

Peyton Booth

Peyton Booth

Madison Gilger

Madison Gilger

Toledo Notre Dame Academy won its third consecutive Division I regional championship Saturday afternoon, handing the Grizzlies a 51-42 defeat.

“It’s pretty ironic, I guess, that it came down to Wadsworth and us again this season,” Eagles coach Travis Galloway said. “To get here one time is tough enough, but to do it three times is remarkable.

“That’s a credit to Coach (Andrew) Booth and their program. He’s a class act and a great coach. Being able to take three very different teams to the regional final says a lot about their program.”

Yes, it does.

Shooting guard Peyton Booth and point guard Hannah Centea, who combined to outscore Notre Dame’s starting backcourt 12-6, were the only Grizzlies to appear in each regional title game.

Fellow seniors Madison Gilger, Taylor Wyatt, Olivia Thompson and Courtney Palange subsequently joined in on the fun as Wadsworth posted a 73-6 record against the rest of the universe, but went 0-3 against the Eagles at Norwalk High.

The Grizzlies suffered heartbreaking four-point losses in 2012 and 2013, but trailed throughout the final 2½ quarters in the finale of their trilogy.

“We thought the third time would be the charm against them,” said center Gilger, who had five points and seven rebounds. “We’ve all wanted this so badly and we’ve always given everything we’ve had, so it’s very difficult to accept.

“I know no one expected us to be here because we graduated five seniors from last year. And I know we sure as heck will be proud of that, but it’s too bittersweet to think about anything right now except the fact we’re not going to state.”

Adding salt in Wadsworth’s wounds were the performances of center Kaayla McIntyre and power forward Jayda Worthy, the lone Notre Dame players in their third straight regional final.

The Grizzlies kept small forward Tierra Floyd — one of the most sought-after juniors in the state — in check with 14 points on 4-for-12 shooting, but were done in by the Eagles’ other 6-footers.

McIntyre collected a game-high 18 points and nine rebounds, while Radford University recruit Worthy scored seven of her 13 points in the fourth period and grabbed nine boards.

“It’s no secret, when you have three 6-footers, you try to pound the ball inside,” coach Booth said.

“That’s smart strategy, which they executed very well. We tried to keep as many bodies on them as possible, but it’s difficult to stop that much size when they’re also that talented.”

Wadsworth, however, was much deeper, which looked like it could turn the tide at crunch time.

Thompson and Wyatt totaled 13 points off the bench, including three 3-pointers, while Notre Dame’s substitutes failed to record a point, rebound or assist. Centea also buried a trey as the Grizzlies pulled within 43-40 at the two-minute mark.

Unfortunately, that was as close as Wadsworth would come to punching its ticket to Columbus.

Worthy and McIntyre answered with four straight points, beginning an extended celebration that was all too familiar to everyone wearing red and white.

“The girls are hurting right now, and I’m hurting for them because they deserved a better fate,” said Booth, who has taken the Grizzlies to four regionals in a row.

“This group was a team in every single sense of the word. We never have bad kids at Wadsworth, but this was the most coachable group we’ve ever had. What they accomplished together was very special, and I hope they can appreciate that sooner rather than later.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.