STOW — On four different occasions in the last two seasons, the Cuyahoga Falls boys basketball team had a certain opponent very much on the ropes.
Oddly enough, that was just fine with its not particularly friendly neighbors from Graham Road.
In yet another fierce battle between two teams that have a fondness for atomic number 79, the hard-luck Black Tigers learned another harsh lesson against their most annoying tormentors.
The "gold" standard still favors maroon.
Host Stow-Munroe Falls earned a hard-fought 51-42 victory over Falls in a Suburban League National Conference showdown Friday at a packed James G. Tyree Gymnasium.
It was the Bulldogs’ 12th consecutive win over the Black Tigers, who have not had a winning season since 2013-14.
During those glory days, Falls reached district play for the first time in 12 years. It also was a season when the Black Tigers defeated their nemesis a mind-boggling three times, including a sectional title game on their home floor.
These days, Falls can’t seem to catch a break against Stow. The Black Tigers had fourth-quarter leads in both of their games with the Bulldogs this winter. Falls also was within striking distance in both of its games against the Bulldogs last season.
In the end, Stow (10-12, 8-6), which ended its regular season with five wins in its last seven games, had the final say.
Just like always. Well, almost always, at least.
"I’m sure they’re frustrated to have that record," longtime Bulldogs head coach Dave Close said. "They’ve been in a lot of games. They have some skilled basketball players. They do a lot of things to get those guys some shots and they made some big shots."
Stow did too. In fact, the Bulldogs led much of the way.
And then, just like its recent games with its maroon-and-gold oppressors, the black-and-gold brigade made a furious charge.
The Black Tigers (2-20, 1-13) went on a 10-0 run to take a 38-35 lead early in the fourth quarter.
However, a 3-point play by sophomore center Van Shyjka gave the Bulldogs the lead (40-38) for good with less than four minutes left. Shyjka converted a tough bank shot after receiving a well-placed bounce pass from junior point guard Cale Marconi.
Shyjka’s clutch basket was part of a 10-0 Stow spurt that crushed the Black Tigers’ hopes for good.
"Part of it was on the defensive end," Falls’ first-year head coach Todd Taylor said. "We gave them too many easy looks."
Prior to its comeback, Falls trailed by as many as 11 (26-15) with a little more than two minutes left until halftime.
However, the Black Tigers ended the half with a 6-0 run to gain some much needed momentum heading into the locker room.
Falls took its first lead of the game (36-35) when junior guard Isaiah Campbell buried a no-hesitation 3-pointer from the right side late in the third quarter.
"I’m very proud of the kids," Taylor said. "They played hard for 32 minutes. Like I told the kids, we’re not a two-win team with the heart and determination we have. I’m very proud of the effort."
Junior guard Jack Costa scored a team-high 14 points for the Bulldogs. His 3-pointer from the right corner gave Stow a just-about-insurmountable nine-point advantage (47-38) with approximately two minutes left.
"A couple of what I thought were the really nice plays of the game was, we got in transition and Cale pushed and drew help and got Van for the and-one," Close said. "It had been a four-point game forever and all of a sudden, it’s seven. That changed the whole dynamic. That was a great play.
"When they started trapping, we swung it around, they double-teamed and Jack got that wide-open 3. Those plays are two very nice ball-movement plays, two unselfish plays that ended up giving us a cushion."
Shyjka, who was held in check for much of the evening, scored 11 of his 13 points in the final eight minutes. He also converted five of his six free-throw attempts in the pivotal fourth quarter.
Sophomore forward Owen Bainbridge added eight points for Stow.
Junior guard Kyler Tepus scored a game-high 16 points for the Black Tigers. Tepus scored 10 of those points in the third quarter.
Junior point guard Trinny Henderson contributed 12 points for Falls. No other Black Tiger scored more than five points.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_Gannett.