NORTH CANTON — The last time Stow-Munroe Falls girls basketball faced Solon, it was not a fun experience.
In the 2018 Division I district final at Euclid, an injury-depleted Bulldogs team was run off the court by a Comets squad on its way to the state title game.
Both teams have changed much in the last 18 months, but still rank among the state’s best programs, which makes the Bulldogs did Saturday so impressive.
A huge rebounding and defensive effort keyed a 63-45 win for the Bulldogs at the Holiday Hoopla event at Walsh University’s Alumni Arena in North Canton. Stow improved to 2-0 on the season, while Solon dropped to 1-2.
Stow coach Bob Podges was ecstatic with his team’s effort.
"We rebounded extremely well tonight," Podges said. "One of the marks for this group since we first started playing together in June is it’s truly a team. Our best player was out with foul trouble of the lot of the night and we had everyone step up."
While the Bulldogs did have to play without Lilee Carlson for long stretches against the press-heavy Comets, Stow was able to handle Solon’s defense for the most part.
"The longer that Ellie McCoy played against the press the against the press, the better she got," Podges said of his point guard.
As the for the Bulldogs’ defense, Solon hit only two three-pointers in the game, while Stow was able to keep Comet star Hailey Weaver in check.
"When you play a player like Weaver, you can have any letdowns," Podges said. "All kids stepped up when playing her tonight."
Weaver led the Comets with 18 points, but she did most of her damage at the free-throw line (10-of-12) and was not the dominant force in the game.
That distinction went to Stow senior center Kira "Wrecker" Philpot. Philpot put up a career-high in points and nearly had a double-double in the first half. She finished with 22 points and 14 boards.
"I’m just trying to do what I can. I know my job is to rebound," Philpot said. "My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball."
Between Philpot, forward Bella Adams and three-guard Kristen Chmielewski — who made her first start after returning from knee surgery — the Bulldogs owned the paint.
That trio helped Stow take a 13-8 after one quarter, as it closed the quarter on an 8-0 run.
Chmielewski had a solid game, even though she admitted she ran out of gas a bit in the second half. She finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, including a three-point play in the second quarter.
"Kristen looked a bit a tired in the second half," Podges said. "She did a great job on the boards for us."
Up 29-22 at the half, Stow started to turn the screws on Solon in the third period, as the Bulldogs found more luck beating the Comets press. A one and-one from Adams gave Stow a 44-31 lead with under two minutes left in the third period and the Bulldogs would lead by double digits the rest of the way.
Stow would outscore the Comets 17-10 in the final quarter, as Solon managed only two field goals in the final eight minutes.
Philpot popped in eight point alone in the final quarter, all on transition layups. The Bulldogs final margin of 63-45 matched its largest lead of the game.
Despite the foul trouble, Carlson was able to get 10 points along with her defensive work. Solon freshman Chyanne Hatcher-Tuberville added 10 points.
Stow will return to Suburban League National Conference play Wednesday at North Royalton at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs will then host rival Wadsworth next Saturday at 7 p.m.