AURORA — After winning its first district title last March, the Aurora girls basketball team has had a few ups and downs this winter.
For Stow-Munore Falls in 2020, however, up and down might literally refer to the team’s temperature. Illness and injuries have slowed the Bulldogs in recent games.
Stow head coach Bob Podges noted last Saturday’s 38-29 win at Brecksville-Broadview Heights may have been the Bulldogs’ sickest game of the season.
Unfortunately for the Greenmen, Stow looked plenty healthy Wednesday night.
Host Aurora never recovered from a slow start as the Bulldogs scored a 47-35 win in the team’s first meeting since last year’s Division I district final.
Stow improved to 12-1 on the season, while the Greenmen fell to 9-4.
Podges said the return of his top players to health showed what they were capable of.
"Our starting seven, as we call them, play really well together," he said. "When we had some of them out or sick, it took away some of what we like to do. [Wednesday], we played like we could. We were being extremely patient on offense and made good shots."
Defensively, the Bulldogs’ focus was on Aurora All-Ohioan Shyanne Sellers. After Sellers lit up the Bulldogs for 40 points last March, the junior went for 25 points, but was just 6-of-28 from the floor.
What’s more, Aurora was unable to take advantage of Stow’s focus on Sellers.
"They left our girls wide open on a couple of a occasions," Greenmen head coach Erika Greenberg said. "They weren’t able to step up. It was pretty bad out there."
"We always had people in the gaps and we were shading her every time she tried to drive," Podges said of his defense. "It’s another principle of pack-line defense that we’ve used against good players."
The combination of the Bulldogs’ defense and the Greenmen’s poor shooting allowed Stow to take control of the game from the start. The Bulldogs held Aurora to just three points in the first quarter and took a 9-3 lead.
"I told our girls just to be ready to play our game," Greenberg said. "We came out flat and that got in our heads a bit."
The Bulldogs didn’t have their best offensive night either early on, but Stow seemed to handle the Bulldogs’ matchup zone fairly well. Greenberg said she put on the zone to "contain the drive" from Stow.
"We didn’t do a very good job with it," Greenberg said. "Three [Ellie McCoy], 14 [Kristin Chmielewski], 12 [Faith Kyer], they all can drive."
Chmielewski was the offensive star for the Bulldogs, particularly in the first half. She put up 12 of her career-high 19 points in the first half and also pulled down 11 rebounds.
"I think we just stayed really patient on offense," Chmielewski said. "We didn’t throw the ball around."
"It makes it easy for Kristin because we have so many pieces around her," Podges said. "If people concentrate on Lilee [Carlson], Kristin can pick it up and she did [Wednesday]."
Stow led 19-9 at the half with Sellers accounting for all of the Greenmen’s points.
Aurora was finally able to get other players involved in its offense in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs got a lift from forward Bella Adams.
In her first game back from a hamstring injury, Adams looked fine, putting up 13 points, including a pair of and-one situations.
"Bella had a tremendous game," Podges said. "Bella has a lot to offer us."
Stow led by as many as 14 (29-15) before Sellers hit a long 3-pointer to make it 29-18 after three quarters.
Sellers engineered an 8-0 Greenmen run around the third-quarter break, converting three free throws to open the fourth quarter. Sellers had 13 points in the final eight minutes.
"They played great defense against her," Greenberg said.
The Greenmen got no closer, as Chmleiewski answered with two straight layups, including an and-one situation.
While Stow had some players in foul trouble due to guarding Sellers — Kyer fouled out with 3 minutes, 25 seconds left in the game — it was the Bulldogs who benefited from fouls late.
After missed its first four shots, Stow went 8-of-9 from the line in the fourth quarter to salt the game away. Carlson hit both ends of a critical one-and-one situation with a little less than two minutes left after Aurora cut its deficit to 41-35.
Podges praised forward Kira "Wrecker" Philpot for another solid "dirty work" game. In addition to shading the lane for the Bulldogs on defense, Philpot finished with 12 rebounds and four points.
Aurora senior Dylynn Lasky made her return for the Greenmen, scoring six points off the bench.
The Greenmen are scheduled to travel to Tallmadge Saturday before taking a trip to the Classic in the Country Monday at Berlin Hiland High School. Aurora is set to face Huber Heights Wayne at 1:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, Stow will take its longest trip of the season Sunday. The Bulldogs will travel to Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Indiana, where they will take on Canfield at 4 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO.