STOW — Evan Bainbridge is their prodigy.
Bryce Harvey is the motor that makes them run.
But the 2018-19 edition of the Bulldogs prefers to avoid singling anyone out if they want to turn their season into a special one.
Nonetheless, if they have dreams of winning a third straight conference title or making an extensive journey that goes beyond the ides of March, it’s essential to have an alpha male who is considered the heart and soul of their team, right?
Longtime Stow-Munroe Falls head boys basketball coach Dave Close begs to differ.
“We have a lot of guys who are the heart of this team,” Close said. “I’d like to see us all become one heart.”
This construction of a powerful and nearly invincible vital organ appears to be getting closer and closer to completion every day.
As a result, the Bulldogs are on a three-game winning streak.
Stow, which has faced some of the stronger programs in Northeast Ohio, improved to 5-5 overall and 4-2 in the Suburban League National Conference after holding off a feisty Cuyahoga Falls’ squad 65-52.
The contest took place Tuesday at James G. Tyree Gymnasium.
For the second straight game, the Bulldogs shot 58 percent or better. They shot a sizzling 63 percent during their 74-57 victory over a red-hot Hudson team last Friday on the road.
It also was the second consecutive game that featured four Stow players in double figures.
Harvey, a senior guard, led the way with 23 points, including an 8-for-8 effort from the foul line, and Bainbridge, a 6-foot-10 forward who recently signed to play at Kent State University, and senior guard Jack Wilson scored 13 points apiece.
Not to be outdone, 6-4 senior forward Brian Cartwright contributed 12 points for the Bulldogs.
“I think we’re making strides,” Close said. “There’s certainly some growth to be had.”
The common denominator in the Bulldogs’ recent winning streak is their well-run offensive machine.
The other side of the ball is still catching up, though.
Stow gave up 24 points in the opening quarter against the Explorers. The Bulldogs were just as vulnerable in trying to neutralize their archrivals.
The upset-minded Black Tigers, who have lost nine straight games, scorched Stow from the perimeter with 11 3-pointers. Thanks to this torrid shooting display, Falls had a one-point advantage (47-46) heading into the fourth quarter.
“I thought we were a step slow defensively all night long,” Close said. “Our rotation was bad; our weak-side help was bad. In our closeouts, we were late.
“Going into the game, we’ve had some improvement offensively. I want to see us improve defensively, too.”
The Bulldogs, despite being considerably taller than their neighbors to the south, were beaten to 50-50 balls on a number of occasions.
Such a fact wasn’t brushed off by Close, a stickler when it comes to basketball fundamentals since he returned to his alma mater more than 30 years ago.
“We didn’t do a good job on the boards,” he said. “They take a shot and we get caught looking. It could be your biggest guy; it could be your littlest guy. We have to have everybody blocking out. We need to make strides in finishing every play.”
Close certainly enjoys seeing his team’s chemistry improve by leaps and bounds in the last couple of weeks.
He also is delighted to watch a constantly moving ball work its way to a wide range of fingers in several different places.
But perfecting an aspect or two of one’s game isn’t going to satisfy Close.
Displaying a hardcore commitment to all phases of the Bulldogs’ lengthy agenda will be something Close urges his players to embrace in the next several weeks.
“I think we need to have guys make multiple efforts,” he said. “We get one effort and we think, ‘OK, I did my part.’ You just have to keep competing.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.