AKRON – Wadsworth’s girls basketball team hasn’t lost many games over the last 20 years or so. But even had their losses been plentiful, the Grizzlies never suffered a more devastating one than to Akron Firestone in the Akron Division I District semifinals a year ago.
Though a year old, the memory of that loss was still fresh Thursday night. And the Grizzlies – minus their top two players of a year ago, both of whom are playing key roles for Mid-American Conference teams – showed the Falcons they hadn’t forgotten.
“Revenge was a big thing,” Grizzlies senior point guard Chrissy Pavlik said. “It felt good.”
It felt good to the tune of a 57-35 thrashing of Firestone, a thorough domination that put Wadsworth (17-5) into a district semifinal for the 18th consecutive year. They will play Akron Kenmore next Wednesday. Kenmore, winner of 19 consecutive games, beat Hudson 45-31 in the second game of the double-header.
Last year, coming off a state final four appearance and with senior stars Cassie Schrock and Jen Uhl leading the way, Wadsworth was expected to roll through the Akron District.
Firestone, which had never advanced to a district final before last year, had other plans. The Falcons stunned the Grizzlies 63-57.
There would be none of that this time. Except for a stretch late in the first quarter through the opening seconds of the second, when Firestone scored seven straight points to take a 13-12 lead, the Grizzlies were dominant.
Wadsworth scored the next 14 points over less than four minutes, opening a 26-13 lead. Firestone scored the last two points of the half, but the game was already well in hand.
“That was obviously very important,” Wadsworth coach Andrew Booth said of the stretch. “I think one thing that we talked about in the locker room that the girls took to heart was it’s not going to be like our first tournament game (against Akron Garfield) and we’re not going to jump all over Firestone. They’re talented enough and it may take awhile.”
The Falcons scored the first four points of the third quarter to pull within 26-17, but Wadsworth answered that with a 13-4 run to lead 39-22 late in the third. The Grizzlies eventually stretched the margin to as many as 26 points in the fourth.
The Grizzlies rotated nine players for much of the game. Firestone played 10, but four of them played sparingly. Wadsworth’s depth started taking its toll as the game went on.
“They only scored four points in the second quarter and the pace worked out just like we hoped it would,” Booth said. “They lost their legs and we kept ours.”
Perhaps wracked a bit by nerves, Wadsworth turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter, yet still led. The Grizzlies had just 13 turnovers over the remainder of the game.
The win was a total team effort. Senior Rachel DeMita, an Old Dominion signee, led Wadsworth with 15 points. Junior Lindsay Tenyak added 12, eight in the third quarter.
Pavlik had eight points, four rebounds and two assists. The 5-foot-6 guard’s four boards were indicative of how Wadsworth controlled that part of the game. The Grizzlies held a 34-29 rebound advantage, despite being the smaller team by a wide margin.
No Wadsworth player had more than seven rebounds, and eight had at least three. Steph Hicks, who scored eight points, was the Grizzlies’ top rebounder. Senior Britt Busson added five points, five rebounds and four assists.
Senior Margaret Clough led Firestone with 12 points. Cierra Harris added eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds, for the Falcons, who finished 10-10.
The most telling statistic of the night was in the Falcons’ shooting. They made just 13 of 48 shots from the field, as the Grizzlies seldom gave up a good look.
The Grizzlies played like they had a purpose. Because they did.
“It was definitely a personal game, but we were focused on this year,” Busson said. “We weren’t going to let last year psyche us out. We wanted to stay focused.”