STOW — It had been a strong start to the season for the Nordonia girls basketball team.
The Knights came into their game at Stow-Munroe Falls undefeated, which included Nordonia’s first win in girls basketball ever over Wadsworth.
So far this season, however, the Bulldogs have made a habit of making good offenses look bad. Much to Nordonia coach Julie Buckler’s chagrin, it happened again Wednesday night.
Stow held Nordonia to just seven first-half points and the Knights never recovered, as the Bulldogs stayed undefeated with a 45-26 win at the James G. Tyree Gymnasium.
Stow improved to 5-0, 4-0 in the Suburban League National Conference, while the Knights dropped to 6-1, 2-1 in the conference.
Stow coach Bob Podges said his team’s defense has been playing lights out all season.
"This is the best defensive team that I’ve ever had," Podges said. "We were able to take them out of what they like to do. They like to go to the high-low post play and we made sure they didn’t get that far."
Buckler was left frustrated after the contest, as Nordonia was held without a single 3-pointer in the game.
"We couldn’t get the shots that we usually do to go down. They’ve got a great defense," Buckler said, noting Stow was the best team her squad had played so far. "It’s part of the grind that is the conference for us."
Stow adjusted its usual pack line defense to address Nordonia’s outside game, as Podges had junior Lilee Carlson face guard Nordonia sharpshooter Hallie Majoros for the entire game. Stow also face guarded Knights star Madison Cluse at times.
Cluse finished with a team-high 13 points and 11 rebounds, but no other Knight scored more than three points.
"She’s a very talented player," Podges said of Cluse. "When you play someone like her, you’ve got to make sure she doesn’t go off script and make sure nobody else beats you."
That’s exactly what happened in the first half as Cluse scored all five of Nordonia’s first-quarter points. Meanwhile, the Knights’ defense was able to slow Stow down until Carlson asserted herself.
Up 9-5 after one quarter, Stow got rolling a bit more in the second quarter. Carlson scored 15 of her game-high 22 points in the first half, as the Bulldogs enjoyed a 15-2 edge in the second quarter.
"That’s her role," Podges said.
"I think we all run our offense very well," Carlson said. "We stayed patient and I was able to get my shots."
A turnaround shot in the lane from Majoros was all that kept Nordonia from becoming the fourth team to go scoreless in a quarter already this season. However, a 3-pointer from Kristen Chmielewski gave Stow a 24-7 lead at the half.
Chmielewski finished with nine points and six rebounds for Stow.
Although Nordonia had a bit more success in the third quarter, as it drew a couple of and-one situations, the lead never went beyond 14 points for the Bulldogs.
Stow’s shots didn’t fall easily in the second half, but the Bulldogs did a good job of working the clock through possession, even when the Knights went to the full-court press.
"We run it in practice every day," Carlson said. "We know what to do and we stayed patient."
Up 32-14 after three quarters, the Bulldogs didn’t score for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, but still were in command.
Nordonia had a big advantage in trips to the free-throw line, but could not take advantage. The Knights shot 8-of-15 from the line, compared to 5-of-6 from the Bulldogs.
Podges lauded forward Kira "Wrecker" Philpot for her defensive and rebounding work. Philpot finished with only four points but had 12 rebounds.
"We have to be able to play our game," Buckler said. "We’ve got to get back to doing what we do well."
Nordonia was set to host Brecksville-Broadview Heights Saturday at home before hosting Twinsburg Wednesday. Both games tip at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, Stow will travel to Twinsburg Saturday before having a full week off due to exams.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_GHO