NORTH ROYALTON -- The mission was simple for Stow-Munroe Falls girls basketball.

Win at North Royalton in the regular-season finale and the Suburban League National Conference title belonged to the Bulldogs.

Stow left nothing to chance.

The Bulldogs took a 20-6 lead after one quarter and controlled matters from there, finishing as 58-39 winners over the Bears Feb. 15 at the Herman Joy Gymnasium in North Royalton.

Prior to the North Royalton game, however, Stow had a 13-game winning streak snapped at St. Vincent-St. Mary Feb. 11. The Bulldogs lost 54-52 to the Irish.

Stow finished the regular season at 19-3. The Bulldogs finished 13-1 in the National Conference, which tied them with Twinsburg for the conference title. Twinsburg defeated Cuyahoga Falls 49-23 Feb. 15 to claim its share of the title.

According to Stow coach Bob Podges, the Bulldogs won their first division title since 2011.

Podges said his team was motivated to finish the job, in particular for its senior captain.

"I told the girls [senior forward] Lauren Turchak is in her eighth season of varsity play between basketball and volleyball and this is her first chance to go for a championship," Podges said. "You can see she was focused tonight. She played probably her best game of the year."

Indeed, Turschak led the Bulldogs with 17 points, showing her entire arsenal of offensive moves.

"It's really awesome that we got it done," Turschak said. "We've been working so hard for this all year."

Stow got rolling in the first quarter thanks to its outside game.

Forward Lizzy Stefanov hit a trio of three-pointers in the first quarter alone, which helped open the lane for the Bulldogs.

Just before the first-quarter buzzer, point guard Lexi Petit hit a three-pointer, making it 20-6 after one.

In the second quarter, the Bears were able to chip away at the lead, thanks to senior guard Gabby White.

White scored 11 of her game-high 18 points in the quarter, as Stow got into a bit of foul trouble.

White, who has committed to play basketball at the United States Military Academy, finished 7-of-7 from the free-throw line in the quarter.

Podges acknowledged that White was a great player, but noted he wasn't going to change his team's defense to adjust for her.

"One thing I believe in is that you make the other team adjust to you and stick to your game plan," Podges said. "I came in thinking if we held [White] to under 25 points tonight, we'd be happy."

Bears guard Megan Grospitch hit a running shot in the lane just before the first-have buzzer. That capped a 6-0 North Royalton run to end the half, with Stow's lead cut to 31-23 at halftime.

In the second half, however, it was the Bulldogs who got the foul calls.

Stow made a conscious effort to get the ball into the post. The result was a big night for Stefanov and Turschak.

"We wanted to get our post players the ball," Podges said. "Hitting those threes early made it a lot easier."

"We were looking for the mismatch every time when their small players were trying to guard us," Turschak said.

Stefanov finished with a double-double, notching 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Stow led 43-28 after three quarters, as the Bulldogs' pack-line defense limited the Bears to just five points in the third quarter.

Back-to-back layups to open the fourth quarter gave Stow a 47-28 lead.

The Bears tried to up the tempo at times, but Turschak showed off a hook shot in the fourth quarter to keep North Royalton from making any runs.

Petit finished with 10 points for Stow, as White was the only Bear in double figures.

Against the Irish, Stow found itself in a close contest throughout. The game was tied a 26-26 at halftime and Stow was outscored 18-15 in the final eight minutes.

Stow lost despite a 19-point night from guard Theresa Parr. Guard Emily Andrassy added 11 points, while Turschak had 10 points.

"It was not officiated very well," Podges said. "We didn't play badly. There were just a lot of things that didn't go right for us. [St. Vincent-St. Mary] had a lot of injuries earlier in the year. They'll be a good team if they stay healthy."

After the North Royalton game, Podges said he wanted to make sure his team got to celebrate.

"We're going to go back to the high school an cut down the nets," Podges said.

Stow didn't have too long to celebrate the title, as the Bulldogs were set to open their Division I playoff run. Given the No. 2 seed in the Akron district, Stow was set to host Akron North Feb. 18, but results were not available at press time.

If victorious over North, Stow was set to host Kent Roosevelt Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. in a section final game.


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