STOW -- Stow-Munroe Falls coach Bob Podges has seen enough seasons to know there will be speed bumps.
With a first-place showdown with Twinsburg looming, Podges said his team's contest Jan. 21 with a young, talented Nordonia squad was "a trap game."
Through the first half, Podges was proven right. Nordonia was running even with Stow and even caused the Bulldogs to lose their composure a bit.
Stow responded, however, like a veteran team.
A 15-2 run by the Bulldogs midway through the third quarter blew the game open, as Stow finished with a 57-49 win.
The victory meant first place in the Suburban League National Conference was on the line when Stow visited Twinsburg Jan. 25.
The Bulldogs got the result they were looking for, scoring a 46-40 win over the Tigers.
Stow's record stands at 13-2, 9-1 in the National Conference and they are tied with the Tigers for first place in the conference.
Podges said his team responded to the challenge from the young Knights well in the second half.
"That's what we talked about in the locker room," Podges said. "We needed to come out with energy and take care of things. We said this was a trap game with Twinsburg coming up."
Nordonia coach Julie Buckler lamented the fact her team continues to have issues after the first half.
"We played them well for three quarters. It was the third quarter that hurt us," Buckler said. "This year, we've had a tendency to struggle in the third quarter. Our problem was a lack of attention to the little things and taking plays off."
Nordonia made it clear from the tip it was not going to be intimated by the Bulldogs. In fact, Nordonia was fairly dominant on the inside early, thanks to the play of freshman forward Lizzie Imrie.
Imrie showed off a variety of interior moves, which had her making layups or heading to the free throw line. Imrie finished with a game-high 21 points, 16 of which came before halftime.
Stow hit 3 three-pointers in the first quarter, tying the game at 12-12 after one.
Things in the second quarter got a bit out of hand at the end.
Stow was able to get its inside game going in the second quarter, as senior foward Lauren Turschak scored eight of her 14 points in the quarter.
However, Imrie continued to drive and score, including a pair of three-point plays in the second quarter. Imrie's success and a lack of foul calls going Stow's way caused Turschak to pick up a technical foul for slamming the ball to the floor. It was the first technical foul of her career.
"I was just upset with the fact we weren't having as much success as we should have," Turschak said. "[Imrie] was really quick. She was driving past me a little."
"We got a little bit rattled at the end of the first half," Podges said. He then smiled and declined to elaborate further.
Stow's halftime adjustment was simple: Switch sophomore Emily Andrassy onto Imrie to shut her down. The move worked, as Imrie had only five points after halftime.
"Emily's great," Turschak said. "She was able to get around the picks and stay with her."
Down just 24-23 at halftime, Nordonia got off to a perfect start, as Sarah Turley and Solell Barnes hit back-to-back threes to make it 29-26.
With the lead, Buckler told her players to switch to a "four corners" drill, trying to take time off the clock. The move backfired, however, as Nordonia turned the ball over.
The Bulldogs then found their offense, as a 15-2 run blew the game open. After being held scoreless in the first half, Theresa Parr put up seven points during the run, including going 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
When Buckler called timeout late in the third quarter, Stow had a 41-31 lead and control of the game.
A layup from Turshack just before the buzzer made it 45-35 after three quarters.
For once, Stow won the battle at the free throw line, going 15-of-24, compared to 10-of-14 for the Knights.
Free throws allowed Stow to maintain the lead in double digits for most of the fourth quarter. Lizzie Stefanov converted a three-point play to make it 53-38 with about three minutes left.
Nordonia was able to cut into the lead as both teams emptied their benches, but the result was not in doubt.
Imrie's 22 points was aided by 15 points from Barnes, but Nordonia had only four players score in the game.
Stefanov and Turschak finished with 14 points each, while Parr had 11 and point guard Lexi Petit had nine points.
Against Twinsburg, Stow got off to a 16-6 start after one quarter and controlled the game from there.
Stefanov led the Bulldogs with 12 points in the win, while Andrassy added 10 points and Turschak had nine.
Twinsburg forward Jasmine Bishop led all scorers with 14 points, but not other Tiger scored more than seven.
Stow's game with Hudson Jan. 28 has been rescheduled to Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
This week, Stow plays a trio of home games. The Bulldogs welcome Mentor Jan. 30 at 7 p.m., host Cuyahoga Falls Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. and welcome Kent Roosevelt Feb. 4 at 2:30 p.m.