A heavy dose of Kyle Prunty near the basket and a timely full-court press turned out to be a winning formula for the Wadsworth boys basketball team Friday.
Prunty’s presence in the paint and a pesky defense helped the Grizzlies earn a 64-55 victory over host Firestone in the season opener for both teams.
Firestone jumped out to a 10-2 lead with 5:02 remaining in the first quarter, but fell behind and never led again following a 22-4 run that put Wadsworth ahead 24-14 with 6:30 to go in the second quarter.
Prunty, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound senior forward, sparked the run and finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds, both game-highs.
“When we got our transition going we played well,” Wadsworth coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. said. “It is much easier to get the ball into the post in transition, which was what we were able to do during that run. Obviously, Kyle is a pretty good player in there and we want to get him as many looks as we can in transition. I thought our ball movement was very good and we played very unselfish through that stretch.”
Firestone senior Evan Kennerly, a 6-foot-3 senior, led Firestone with 20 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Wadsworth took control of the game after its slow start and led 17-14 after one quarter, 39-28 at halftime and 53-43 after three quarters. Firestone cut its deficit to six points (53-47 and 55-49) twice in the fourth quarter, but got no closer.
“We came out good, but you have to make adjustments,” Firestone coach Dave Milo said. “I will blame the coaches on that, but our guards know how to handle pressure and have been in that situation before. It looked rough today and the pressure got to us. Let’s face it, Wadsworth did a really nice job, but we are a better team than we showed today.”
Prunty scored 17 points in the first half with several layups.
“We were reading well off of each other and my teammates saw I was posting up,” Prunty said. “We got the ball in and out, which made for a good game.
“I love this team. I think bringing back so many guys and bringing back a lot of our points from last year is fantastic. We will be something definitely to contend with within the Suburban League.”
Junior guard Austin White contributed 15 points, six rebounds and four steals for Wadsworth. Junior forward Joel Kipfer (nine points) and senior guards Anthony Palecek (six points) and Barry Fernholz (five points) also played key roles.
“We are trying to find quality opponents, which Firestone is,” Schmeltzer said. “They are very athletic and Kennerly is a great player. You play these games to get yourself ready for league play. Coming over here, I think is a good test for us to start the season. We have Stow [at home] on Tuesday, which will be another good one.”
Firestone senior guard JaeQuan Jones finished with nine points and five assists, and sophomore forward Raybon Lewis totaled eight points and seven rebounds.
“The positives are these guys know what they have to do,” Milo said. “I have got six seniors on the team. They have got to take control and play solid fundamental basketball.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.