It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.
Undersized and lacking in varsity experience the Stow-Munroe Falls boys basketball team fought past a taller and more experienced Hudson squad 51-43 at theJames G. Tyree Gymnasium Tuesday.
Trailing 9-0 early and 20-18 at the break, Stow fought back with an 19-8 bulge in the third quarter to take control.
With the win, the Bulldogs improved to 4-5 overall and 3-3 in Suburban League National Conference play.
Stow junior Jack Bryden, a 6-0 guard, and 6-2 sophomore Van Shyjka took turns with the early heroics before four different Dawg starters stepped to the line in the fourth quarter to ensure the win.
Shyjka had the assignment of going against Hudson’s third-year starter Jack Burdett. Shyjka was up to the task using his wide body, athleticism and physicality inside to gain the upper hand in the paint.
"He’s a tough, tough kid," Stow head Coach Dave Close said. "Looking at him an outsider wouldn’t know what kind of basketball player he is; he is very physical, obviously very strong and he’s got good feet. He’s going to be a Division I college lineman someday, for football …and he just works his butt off, all the time."
"Burdett is a pretty good player. He’s got some versatility, he can turn either way, he can give you an up and under. When he tried to make those moves Van did a nice job staying in front of him," Close added.
Burdett ended with four points and a team-high seven rebounds. Shyjka had nine points and a game-high 12 boards to lead the Bulldogs to a 21-20 edge on the glass.
Hudson coach Jeff Brink commended the victors afterward for their effort which started with Shyjka inside.
The Explorers seemed to have fire early as they jumped out to an quick 9-0 lead making their first four shots. Starters Peyton Koscho, Brad McCormick, Tyler Miller and Burdett each drilled their first field goal tries with McCormick’s coming from outside the three-point arc.
Despite the slow start, Stow fought back with Shyjka leading the way, at both ends in the early going.
"Early in the game we were really struggling to score," Close cited. "We didn’t panic. As ugly as it was, we stayed disciplined. There has been a lot of growth and were proud of the progress we are making day to day in showing some maturity."
For the Explorers, the positives after the 9-0 start were too few and far between. Hudson held an 11-9 lead after the first quarter despite Shyjka pulling down five straight rebounds in about a two minute stretch late in the period.
With just nine points in the second stanza Hudson still held a 20-18 lead at intermission. Burdett pulled down four rebounds in the second quarter and the 6-4 Miller leading all scorers in the frame with four points.
In the third a new hero arose for the Bulldogs as Bryden made his presence felt. Bryden hit two huge three-pointers just 37 seconds apart late in the third quarter.
Bryden ended with a game-high 17 points.
Junior Jack Costa’s put-back upped the Stow lead to 31-28 before Bryden’s back to back shots to Hudson’s heart. His first came from the left wing near the corner with 1:47 on the clock and then at the 1:10 mark he hit again for the right wing; 37-28 Stow after three. Hudson would not recover.
"I love [Bryden’s] game. I’m proud of him. Give our kids credit; they found him and he was open. When somebody makes one you get it to him again; get him while he’s hot," Close related. "I was really thrilled, going back to our youth; that the guys found him twice in a row"
Hudson still had some fight in them down the stretch. Senior Damani Ganaway got back to back steals midway through the final quarter. At the offensive end Hudson couldn’t capitalize enough despite making 6-11 shots in the frame.
The Bulldogs iced the victory hitting 10-12 from the charity line in the period. Costa, Cale Marconi, Owen Bainbridge and Bryden took turns keeping the Explorers at bay.
Hudson was led by Miller and Dave Gentry with 10 points each.
Costa had seven for Stow with Marconi and Bainbridge close behind with six points apiece.
"We are very young. We opened with Green that’s one of the top teams in the state and they took it to us. We played Brecksville and North Royalton; both very early. We took our lumps but the kids have been diligent and have continued to work," Close added. "I think we have been getting a little better every game …I like the progress."