The time to put up or shut up punched Ryan Badowski and the Brunswick boys basketball team directly in their guts.
The Blue Devils lost their third consecutive overtime game in early February. The first two, Medina and Mentor, were dogfights against superior talent. The last, to .500 Normandy, was unacceptable.
Badowski knew something had to change. The 6-foot-3 senior was putting up 20 points per game, but the Blue Devils had the look of what 18th-year coach Joe Mackey soon thereafter called an “average team.”
The four-year career of Badowski was on the brink of a disappointing conclusion. He decided to search long and hard for an extra gear, and the machine-like precision of his right hand didn’t stop lighting up the scoreboard until a 74-62 loss to eventual Division I state champion St. Edward in the Brecksville District title game.
Few players in Northeast Ohio — let alone MedinaCounty — elevated their games as high when the pressure was at its greatest. Carrying a very inexperienced team on the back of his No. 3 jersey proved Badowski met the challenge.
That is the chief reason the two-time All-Ohioan and Longwood (Va.) recruit is Gazette MVP.
“The biggest thing with Ryan is I thought he not only had an incredible career, but an unbelievable close to an incredible career,” Mackey said. “He saved his best for last. The last month of his senior season, he was playing as well as any guard in the area and was one of the best in the state. He put us on his back, and what was looking like an average season turned into what some could say a great season.”
It didn’t look that way when Normandy beat the OT buzzer, and certainly not after a loss to Brush that negated momentum gained from a mild upset over traditional NOCValley power Garfield Heights.
That changed when Badowski uncorked a brilliant performance at Shaker Heights.
Roaring to a 20-2 lead after one quarter, the Blue Devils held on to stun the Red Raiders, who were led by big-time college prospect Esa Ahmad, when Badowski hit a driving layup for his 26th and 27th points with 11 seconds left.
The 51-50 shockwave was the shot in the arm Brunswick needed — Shaker Heights won the loaded Valley Division and advanced to regionals — and the Blue Devils had their star to thank.
“Losing three overtime games in a row is pretty brutal,” Badowski said. “It really hits you. It gets stuck in your head.
“(Against Shaker Heights), once we went out and got that run on them, we knew we had a chance to beat them. We thought, ‘If we can beat Shaker, we can beat anybody since they beat St. Ed’s.’ We got that win, and that gave us all the confidence in the world.”
What followed was a postseason of domination.
Showing he had mastered the ability to score within the flow of the game while also getting teammates involved, Badowski opened with 33 points, five rebounds and three assists against rival Strongsville. Badowski then willed the Blue Devils back from a double-digit deficit with 16 points in the fourth quarter against Midview before dropping 23 points on Westlake in the district semifinals.
That set the stage for the misleading loss to St. Edward. Pegged a massive underdog by everyone but themselves, the Blue Devils were carried by Badowski (23 points) to the brink of history — it was the only halftime deficit the Eagles faced until the state title game — before finally succumbing to St. Edward’s unmatched depth.
Badowski averaged 27.0 points while shooting .485 from the floor, .800 from the foul line and .400 from 3-point range in the postseason.
Clutch doesn’t begin to describe it.
“The kid is loaded with confidence,” Mackey said. “Ever since he came into our program as a freshman, he didn’t get nervous. He always believes he’s the best player on the floor.
“He wanted the ball at end of games, and there was never a doubt who wanted ball. He never shied away from the moment. That’s one of the things we’ll always remember about Ryan.”
Badowski finished fourth in county history with 1,365 career points — a total that would have been much higher if he hadn’t missed nine games with injuries — after scoring a school-record 545 points while averaging 21.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists this season.
Badowski also drilled a county-record 201 3-pointers in his 86-game career, and only Medina County Sports Hall of Fame member Bob Lyren of Wadsworth (405, 1956-60) made more free throws than Badowski’s 384.
No matter which way he is dissected, Badowski will always be remembered as one of the best pure scorers in Brunswick lore.
“I’d say it was great year,” he said. “We got to the district finals, and we hadn’t done that in the last 15 years at Brunswick. We had a lot of guys step up and we had a really good season. I was happy with that.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.