They were missing their most experienced player.
And he also plays the most important position on the floor.
The Bulldogs didn’t have the services of junior point guard Cale Marconi when they made the trip to Jackson Township Saturday.
No problem for Marconi’s fellow comrades, though.
The Stow-Munroe Falls boys basketball team got a nice little treat in its stocking a few days after Christmas.
Despite lacking their "partridge" in their "pear tree," the Bulldogs earned a 65-55 victory over Youngstown Ursuline in the Chick-Fil-A-Classic at Jackson High School. With the win, Stow improved to 3-5.
"It was a good game for us," longtime Bulldogs head coach Dave Close said. "Cale sprained his ankle and we had a couple of other guys recovering from the flu. I was a little worried about how that would shake out."
Pretty darn well, to be quite honest.
Despite the Fighting Irish’s relentless pressure, Stow kept its poise without the services of its indispensable floor general.
"They like to use a lot of pressure," Close said. "They also have a variety of halfcourt zone defenses and a number of them involved trapping. Not having your point guard, who, by far, has logged the most minutes and is the only returning starter, was a concern.
"I’m really, really proud of the guys. I thought they handled the pressure well. We moved the ball really well. We made the extra pass. Ursuline was disruptive. Our guys didn’t panic. They moved the ball quickly and made some shots."
The Bulldogs made quite a few shots, particularly inside the 3-point arc. All told, Stow converted 63 percent of its 2-point shots.
"It was a very unselfish effort," Close said.
Despite this share-the-wealth bonanza, the Bulldogs got a breakout game from their sophomore shooting guard. Deon Horn scored a season-high 26 points, including a 10-for-10 effort at the foul line.
"It was a mix of inside and driving to the basket," Close said of Horn’s performance. "He had a really good feel for his game. None of it was forced. Guys set really nice screens for him. When he drove to the basket, he kicked it out to a teammate for an open 3."
Horn also got his coach’s attention, thanks to his fierce tenacity late in the first half.
"A ball got tipped and Deon and a kid from Ursuline are scrapping for it," Close said. "Deon outworked him and we got a layup at the buzzer. That gave us a little cushion [30-23]."
With Marconi’s absence, Jack Costa ran Stow’s offense. He proved to be a more than capable replacement as he contributed eight points and many other intangibles that aren’t particularly visible on the stat sheet.
"Jack played a lot of point guard and did a nice job," Close said. "We worked on meeting passes. We got the ball moving quickly and found the open guy. We played with some aggression and not fear."
Desmond Copeland finished with 12 points and Jack Bryden added eight points for the Bulldogs. Pardon Close for being lukewarm about Copeland’s point total. That’s because he was far more stoked about a certain floor burn his blue-collar big man received on a 50-50 ball.
"There was a loose ball on our end of the floor and Desmond dives past the Ursuline guy to get it," Close said. "He threw it to a teammate from the floor and we got a layup."
Owen Bainbridge got into the loose-ball parade too. Once again, it led to another chippy.
"We missed a shot in the second half and we really didn’t have a good chance to get the rebound," Close said. "Owen comes in, gets a hand on it and taps it to Van [Shyjka] and he gets a layup. Everybody thought Ursuline was going to get it.
"Those plays were three great effort plays. They were spontaneous-response situations that resulted in three easy baskets."
With many new faces, getting comfortable has been a complicated task for Close’s young troops. They are getting there, though. They seem to be getting there quite rapidly, as a matter of fact.
"There are so many different components to our team," Close said. "We have young kids, kids who didn’t get a lot of playing time [last season] and kids that are new to the basketball program.
"That’s the joy in the challenge. We’re striving for consistency. We want to continue to get better. We never want to believe we’ve reached some pinnacle. It’s an ongoing process."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.