No matter what the situation or opponent, Stow-Munroe Falls girls basketball has hung its hat on its defense over the past few seasons.
After a rough opener, the Bulldogs look to have found their way on the defensive side of the ball. That helped lead the Bulldogs to a victory over one of their chief rivals in the Suburban League National Conference.
Stow pulled out a tight 37-36 win at Wadsworth Wednesday, edging the Grizzlies by limiting their turnovers. Last Saturday, Stow put forward another defensive masterpieces, limiting North Royalton to eight first-half points, before coasting to a 50-25 win.
Stow’s record moved to 3-1, 2-0 in the National Conference with the wins.
Bulldogs coach Bob Podges said Wadsworth remains a very tough foe, particularly on its home court.
"They have two Division I players on their roster," Podges said. "It’s always tough to play there."
The game pitted Stow’s "pack line" defense vs. Wadsworth’s full-court press, but Podges noted Stow handled the Grizzlies pressure beautifully.
"Wadsworth pressed the entire game and we ended up with eight turnovers," Podges said. "You’ve got to limit your turnovers against them. They try to get you out of your rhythm and force up bad shots.
"We shot 75 percent from the field in the second half," he added. "We took 12 shots and made nine. We were just patient with the ball. The last couple of games, they’ve been very good with their shot selection."
Stow had a bit of an issue early when senior Theresa Parr picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game and had to sit for the duration of the third quarter.
Despite this, Stow had a lead of 11-6 after one quarter and still led 16-15 at the half.
Forward Lizzy Stefanov picked up the scoring slack, as she would hit three 3-pointers in the first half and finish with 14 points.
Podges noted Stefanov was showing some outrageous range.
"One of the shots she hit was from the red ‘W’ near midcourt," he said.
With Parr back on the court in the second half, Podges said the Bulldogs made a concerted effort to run their offense through their senior. Parr responded by finishing with 14 points.
While the Bulldogs never lead by more than five points in the second half, Wadsworth never got the lead in the fourth quarter.
"We were up by a point with a minute left. I know we took three timeouts in the final minute," Podges said. "They had two shots at the basket and they were severely contested. We did a great job shutting them down."
Podges noted point guards Lexi Petit and Emily Andrassy committed only one turnover each against the Grizzlies. Petit finished with two points and four assists, while Andrassy snagged three points and five steals in the win.
Maddie Movsesian led Wadsworth with nine points. Wadsworth did win the rebounding battle 25-17.
"When you’re playing a team like Wadsworth, you can’t given them easy baskets," Podges said. "We have to make them earn their points and we did that last night."
Easy baskets came early and often for the Bulldogs when they travelled to North Royalton, while the Bulldogs had the Bears locked down on defense.
Stow led 16-6 after one quarter and 33-8 at the half, allowing Podges to work some different player combinations in the second half.
"We played really well in the first half and then did some things to get ready for Wadsworth," Podges said. "North Royalton played hard in the second half. Their coach did a good job of getting them ready. We didn’t really shoot the ball well, but we were trying different things.
Parr led the Bulldogs with 20 points, while Stefanov added 13 points. Freshman Lilee Carlson put up eight points in the win, as Podges noted she has become a vital cog for Stow.
"She’s coming along," Podges said of Carlson. "She’s becoming a pretty consistent player. We’re asking her to do a lot more than she ever has before, especially on the defensive end. It’s good to have guard with size like that who can handle the ball, especially against at team like Wadsworth."
Stow returns home to take on Nordonia Saturday at 2:30 p.m. before traveling to Twinsburg next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.