STOW — The schedule threw a bit of a curveball at the Stow-Munroe Falls girls basketball team as the regular season entered its final fortnight.
After a full week off at the end of January, Stow had to play four games in six days.
That stretch started with an emphatic 61-18 home win over North Royalton Monday, before the Bulldogs welcomed backyard rival Hudson to James G. Tyree Gymnasium Wednesday.
Hudson coach Dennis Lawler has long loved matching wits with Stow’s Bob Podges, although the Bulldogs have dominated the rivalry over the past few years.
The Bulldogs continued their dominance over Hudson, securing the Suburban League National Conference title for Stow for the fourth straight year.
Stow held Hudson to just 10 first-half points and was in control throughout the contest, finishing with a 52-35 win Wednesday at Tyree.
The Bulldogs cut the nets down after the contest as Stow improved to 12-0 in the National Conference, clinching no worse than a tie for the its fourth straight conference title. Stow moved to 16-2 overall, while Hudson dropped to 8-12, 4-9 in the National Conference.
Podges praised his program’s depth and well-rounded nature as the hallmarks of winning four straight conference titles.
"I think our basketball team has evolved into a very sound team all around," Podges said. "We’ve got so many people that can contribute. I find myself standing on the sidelines amazed at what we can do sometimes."
Lawler noted his team kept after it for the full 32 minutes.
"I was proud of our offensive effort in the second half," Lawler said. "We scored 25 points after halftime. The effort was there from the girls. We’ve got to keep getting better."
Podges said he wasn’t too surprised that Hudson didn’t employ its trapping press defense until the second half.
"I think his depth isn’t enough to press for the full game," Podges said. "They did a good job with it, but we got some easy baskets from it as well. You’re going to have turnovers when you’re getting pressed. We tried to maintain our tempo, but it’s a little hard to stay calm when you’re getting trapped."
It was Stow’s frontcourt that did most of the damage this night. Forwards Kira Philpot and Bella Adams were all over the court, as Philpot finished with a double-double, putting up a game-high 20 points and 13 rebounds.
"My teammates just kept getting the ball to me when I was open," Philpot said. "It’s really special to be part of something like this."
Phlipot’s work on the glass allowed Stow to take a 15-5 lead after one quarter. Sarah Hinkle scored all five first-quarter points for Hudson, finishing with a team-high 13 points.
Stow opened the second quarter on a 9-0 run and led by double digits for the rest of the contest. Sophomore Kristin Chmielewski hit a 3-pointer to help lead the charge as she finished with 11 points and seven rebounds on the night.
Hudson didn’t help itself by going 4-of-12 from the free-throw line. Lawler said his team’s offense was off-balance in first half.
"We rushed it a little bit," Lawler said. "I think we passed up some open shots against them."
Stow led by as many as 21 before a 3-pointer from Hudson’s Kate Orazen trimmed the deficit to 28-10 at the half.
Hudson went to its press and was able to have some success turning Stow over, but the primary beneficiary from the press was Philpot.
The senior scored 12 of her 20 points in the third quarter alone, all of them coming on layups or short baseline jumpers.
"Kira has become a very reliable player on the offensive and defensive end," Podges said. "She’s extended her range. She’s been hitting that baseline jumper consistently in practice."
"A lot of what she did came off of offensive rebounds," Lawler said. "We need to do a better job with that, but she’s a good player."
Hinkle and Hudson’s Jocelyn Weaver were able to hit a pair of 3s late in the third quarter, but Hudson still trailed 44-27 after three quarters.
Hudson guard Ali Menendez was able to get some offense in the fourth quarter off of steals. Menendez keyed a 7-3 run that brought Hudson to within 47-34 with 3:58 left in the game. Menendez finished with 11 points.
However, Adams showed off her range with a 3-pointer and the two sides emptied their benches with about two minutes to go. Adams had seven points and 10 rebounds on the night.
"Bella’s probably one of our best on-ball defenders," Podges said. "She’s really expanded her game."
Both teams also learned their seeds in the Division I Ravenna district tournament Sunday. Stow was given the No. 2 seed in the district and will receive a first-round bye. The Bulldogs will open the postseason Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. against the winner of the Walsh Jesuit-Massillon Perry game.
Meanwhile, Hudson was given the No. 9 seed and will open the postseason Feb. 15 at Austintown Fitch at 7 p.m. If victorious, Hudson will face top-seeded Warren G. Harding Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.
Stow’s win over North Royalton started in a similar fashion to its first meeting with the Bears: Stow shut out North Royalton in the first quarter.
The Bulldog led 14-0 after one quarter and 30-4 at the half, allowing Stow to play its reserves for the majority of the game. Chmielewski led Stow with 12 points, but Stow’s reserves outscored its starters 32-29 in the win.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_GHO