STOW — One team had the chance to play the spoiler role.
The other had a chance to keep its conference title hopes alive.
In the end, it came down to one team having the other’s number.
For the Stow-Munroe Falls boys basketball team, it goes something like this: to the victor go the spoils.
The host Bulldogs put a huge dent in Twinsburg’s Suburban League National Conference championship hopes after earning a hard-fought 50-48 victory Friday at James G. Tyree Gymnasium.
With the win, Stow, which earned its fourth consecutive victory, improved to 9-10 overall and 7-5 in the Suburban League National Conference. The Tigers dropped to 12-6 overall and 8-4 in the conference.
"Their defense is just suffocating," said longtime Bulldogs head coach Dave Close, whose teams have had their way with Twinsburg for much of the last two decades. "They’re athletic; they play enough kids to keep them fresh and keep them coming at you. We got a little bit of a lead there, but you just know they’re going to come and trap you and try to out-athlete you."
Thanks to Stow’s win, North Royalton clinched no worse than a tie for the conference title. The Bears improved to 10-2 in the conference after cruising past Wadsworth 57-41 Friday.
The Tigers, Hudson and Brecksville-Broadview Heights have four losses apiece in the conference. All six teams have two conference games left.
The Bulldogs scored the game-winning basket with four seconds left.
After Stow used more than 30 seconds off the clock, the ball went to Van Shyjka. The 6-foot-4 sophomore center, who finished with a game-high 19 points, used a couple of pump fakes to convert a layup in traffic.
"They were in a 2-1-2 so we called a timeout and then they came out in a 1-2-2 so we just kind of sat out there," Close said. "We’ll just stay in that and get the last shot.
"We called a man-to-man play when they were still in that zone because I think that play will still work against a zone. At the same time, they were scrambling to get matched up and they did, but I was impressed that our kids could execute on verbal command a play that could get Van the ball after just holding the ball against the zone."
Twinsburg had a 3-point attempt partially blocked and a reverse layup that fell short as time expired.
The Bulldogs led by as many as 11 (35-24) when junior guard Jack Bryden drained a 3-pointer from the left side nearly three minutes into the second half.
However, the Tigers, thanks mainly to their relentless defense, came back to tie the game on two occasions. The last time was when junior wing Dante’ Yarbrough converted a layup prior to Shyjka’s game-winner.
"We did turn it over some and we took a couple bad shots," Close said. "All in all, I think our kids kept their poise. That was kind of our sermon [last] week: just wait for your opportunity to make a play. Don’t shoot it quickly. They want you to rush. I thought, for the most part, we did OK handling that."
Yarbrough finished with 12 points. Senior wing Ken McElrath led the Tigers with a game-high 19 points. Sophomore forward Owen Bainbridge added nine points for the Bulldogs.
"I’m proud of where we’re at, but we still have room to grow," Close said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_Gannett.