The Kent Roosevelt boys basketball team has made quite a turnaround this season.
Unfortunately for the Rough Riders, they still can’t handle a certain maroon and gold next-door neighbor.
Host Stow-Munroe Falls improved to 6-10 after defeating Roosevelt 51-41 in a Suburban League crossover showdown Tuesday at James G. Tyree Gymnasium.
The Bulldogs outscored the Rough Riders 11-2 in the second quarter to take a 23-13 halftime lead. Stow didn’t look back the rest of the way.
"They [the Rough Riders] started off really strong," Bulldogs’ longtime head coach Dave Close said. "They’ve come down to earth a little bit of late. They have been down a number of years."
Post player Desmond Copeland led the way for Stow with 15 points.
"Desmond had a really nice game," Close said. "He’s capable of doing that. He eliminated some of his mistakes from the past."
Guards Cale Marconi and Owen Bainbridge each had nine points for the Bulldogs. Guard Zac Common led Roosevelt with 15 points. Nine of those points took place in the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs had a comfortable lead.
"Jack Bryden did a great job on him," Close said. "He has improved defensively. He’s a physically strong kid who is pretty fearless.
"I was kind of disappointed with our help defense. Our other guys need to do a better job of paying attention when their best player has the ball."
Stow suffered a humbling 57-35 defeat to St. Ignatius last Saturday in Cleveland.
Jonathan Effertz led the Wildcats with 14 points and Danny Nunez added 12 points for St. Ignatius, which outscored the Bulldogs 52-24 in the last three quarters.
"They [the Wildcats] had some giants swarming over us on a small court," Close said. "It was kind of a new experience. We had to adapt to it. We had no practice to prepare for it since we played North Royalton Friday night.
"They had guys who were 6-8 and 6-6 and some athletes on the perimeter. We had to go with a completely different plan."
Post player Van Shyjka led Stow with a game-high 19 points. No one else scored more than seven points as the Bulldogs had just four players find the basket.
On Friday at Herman L. Joi Gymnasium, Stow had the likely Suburban League National Conference champion on the ropes.
Alas for the Bulldogs, North Royalton dominated the final eight minutes to remain unbeaten in conference play.
The host Bears outscored Stow 20-6 in the final period to earn a come-from-behind 61-53 win.
Point guard Omar Abuhamdeh led North Royalton with a game-high 19 points and Jordan Garland and Nick Evanko contributed 14 and 13 points, respectively, for the Bears.
"They have four guys who can flat out shoot," Close said of the Bears. "Their five guy [Garland] is a tremendous athlete who can attack the basket.
"We had Van on him [Garland] and we told him to play off him and let him shoot jump shots. Van is a tough customer. He didn’t give up much."
Shyjka and Bainbridge led the Bulldogs, who dropped to 4-5 in the National Conference, with 14 points apiece and Bryden added 10 points.
Stow has been a bit short-handed in recent weeks. As a result, Close has expanded his rotation quite considerably.
And that expansion process took place after, well, he had already expanded his roster.
Sophomore guard Connor Dunlap had received considerable playing time until he suffered a wrist injury against the Wildcats. Close said Dunlap is likely done for the season.
"He was the first guy off the bench and was doing well," Close said. "He worked hard and I was happy for him. He was stuck behind some guys and then he got his chance.
Nick Timberlake has become part of the rotation too. Of course, the freshman guard also had a scary moment.
"We thought he broke his nose against Massillon [Jan. 19] and then he had the flu," Close said.
Close also has used freshman guard Titus Baskerville IV in his lineup. Well, here and there, at least.
"Titus has been our next guard in the rotation and then he was sick this week," Close said. "We’ve been playing guys together for the first time on short notice."
Last but not least, Carter Kline, a senior forward, has been thrust into the fire in recent weeks too.
"Van got in foul trouble; Desmond got in foul trouble [against Roosevelt]," Close said. "Carter goes out there and does a great job. Carter pushes our guys every day. I’m proud of the guys who stepped up."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.