STOW — Some basketball players might act coy about the importance of playing a rival. Stow-Munroe Falls point guard Lexi Petit is not one of them.
“We have been working for this since the last time we played,” Petit said.
“This” was another shot at Wadsworth, who handed Stow its lone loss in the Suburban League National Conference back on Dec. 5.
The Bulldogs hosted the Grizzlies Saturday at James G. Tyree Gymnasium. It was a grinding affair, but Stow got its revenge with a 41-33 win over Wadsworth.
Both teams now sit at 12-1 in the National Conference with one game remaining. Stow, which improved to 18-2, won its 14th straight game, while Wadsworth dropped to 16-4.
Unlike most games this season, Stow coach Bob Podges did not have the Bulldogs run their transition offense.
“It’s a lot of respect to Wadsworth,” Podges said. “They’re very good in the press. We knew it was going to be a game like this. The first time time we played, we were very poor on defense and gave up 25 foul shots. Other than that, it was same type of game.”
Wadsworth coach Andrew Booth also played a slower tempo than usual, noting he respected Stow’s guards.
“There’s no secrets when we play Stow,” Booth said. “When you play Stow, the number of good looks you’re going to get offensively is at a premium. I thought we got some good looks, it was just one of those days where it didn’t go through the hoop.
“I thought with our game plan, the kids played very well,” he added. “We just couldn’t get the shots to fall.”
Both teams’ defensive intensity was on display early as Stow’s lead was 8-6 after one quarter.
With the Grizzlies clamping down on Stow forward Lizzy Stefanov, the Bulldogs got a boost from its underclassmen in the second quarter. Freshmen Kristen Chmielewski and sophomore Bella Adams each had a pair of layups in the first half.
Chmielewski finished with eight points and five rebounds.
“Kristen is a very talented basketball player,” Podges said. “She’s able to come into a game like this and compete.”
Just before halftime, a 3-pointer from Petit gave Stow a bit of breathing space as it took a 19-14 lead into the half.
“That 3-pointer before the half was big,” Booth said. “All 10 kids had to have their big girl pants on today. It was intense, but clean.”
Stow looked to take control of the game, as Chmielewski keyed a 7-1 Stow run to start the second half. However, Wadsworth cut the lead back to 26-19 after three quarters.
Playing in foul trouble most of the afternoon, Petit was able to find her shot in the fourth quarter. She nailed a 3-pointer to give Stow a 33-21 lead with five minutes left in the game. Petit was the lone player in double figures for either team wth 13 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter.
“Most of my fouls were when I was trying to get steals, which was dumb on my part,” Petit said. “I knew I just had to keep their guards in front of me. I was still getting back into it the first time we played. I should have given myself more time. Now I feel a lot better.”
Stow controlled the paint defensively most of the night and did a better job on the boards after halftime. Forward Kira “Wrecker” Philpot had 12 rebounds for Stow.
Wadsworth didn’t hit a 3-pointer until Taylor Leatherman hit with just 3:30 left in the game. The Grizzlies cut the lead to 37-31 with 1:16 left off a 3-pointer from Kylee Batey, but the Grizzlies would get no closer as they were forced to foul.
Leatherman and Batey led Wadsworth with seven points each.
Stow didn’t have its best free-throw shooting effort, going 11-of-17 from the line, but Petit and guard Emily Andrassy hit enough down the stretch to ice the game.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC