High school boys basketball: North Royalton edges Stow 52-49

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Stow-Munroe Falls guard Deon Horn Jr. drives to the basket during a game against Wadsworth earlier this season.

STOW — Midway through the third quarter Tuesday, the Stow-Munroe Falls boys basketball team had North Royalton right where it wanted them.

The Bulldogs took a 10-point lead on the Bears at the James G. Tyree Gymnasium and looked to have the defending Suburban League National Conference champions on the ropes.

It was at the point, however, that Omar Abuhamdeh asserted himself.

Abuhamdeh sparked a 14-0 run at the end of the third quarter to turn the game around, and the returning National Conference player of the year hit what proved to be the winning bucket with a minute left to lead North Royalton to a 52-49 victory.

Bulldogs coach Dave Close's frustration was evident after the loss.

"We left Omar at the end," Close said. "He's the best player in the conference. That was our whole conversation: Making sure we had someone on him well outside the line.

"I think we worked really hard tonight on defense, we made some mistakes, but we did a lot of good things. The bottom line is we have got to be able to finish games."

North Royalton coach Nick Lapsevich noted the Bulldogs (0-5) made the Bears (6-2, 4-1) work for it.

"We did not have a good rhythm on offense tonight," Lapsevich said. "I give Stow a lot of credit for that. We as coaches didn't do a great job. When you've got a player like Omar and a lot of guys just grinding it out, good things happen.

"Stow is always a tough opponent. Coach Close is one of the best in Ohio."

The most frustrating part of the night for Stow was simple. The Bulldogs executed well on offense, but the ball just wouldn't go through the net.

"We must have missed at least 20 layups tonight," Close said. "We missed three on the first possession of the game. We had a ton of guys missing layups. You're not going to get much better looks than we did tonight."

Emblematic of the Bulldogs' struggles was junior Van Shyjka, who had at least six layups lip out on him and finished without a field goal. Shyjka tried to make up for his shooting woes with 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals.

That lack of offensive punch kept the Bulldogs from taking command early, as Stow led 7-5 after one quarter.

However, the Bears fared no better early on, as Stow's 2-3 zone defense kept North Royalton quiet.

"They did a good job running it," Lapsevich said. "They killed us on the boards tonight. The last six games we've been able to out-rebound our opponents, but not tonight. We need to clean that up."

Stow's dribble-drive and post game were their chief offensive weapons, as junior Marvin Campbell made several nice moves to the basket. Campbell finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.

Stow led 22-15 with 2:48 left in the first half. Foreshadowing things to come, however, North Royalton closed the half on a 6-0 run, as Killian O'Callahan beat the buzzer with a layup.

Tied at 24 at the half, Stow came out on fire.

Desmond Copeland and Deon Horn keyed a 9-0 run for the Bulldogs to start the third quarter, forcing Lapsevich to call a timeout.

Off the bench, Copeland just missed a double-double, finishing with a team-high 13 points and nine rebounds.

"Desmond played hard today," Close said. "He attacked the basket and the glass."

Back-to-back layups by Copeland gave Stow a 37-27 lead with under three minutes left in the quarter.

That's when the rally began.

After two baskets by Abuhamdeh, the Bears found their shooting stroke, while Stow suddenly had trouble dealing with North Royalton's 1-2-2 trap defense.

The run was capped by a 3-pointer by Ethan Toppin at the buzzer, giving the Bears a 41-37 lead after three quarters.

The fourth quarter ended up as a dogfight, as two layups by Campbell tied the score at 43-43 with 5:30 to go.

Campbell then gave Stow a 49-47 lead on a putback layup, before Abuhamdeh answered with a 3 with just under a minute left.

Close called timeout with 23.7 seconds left and Stow looked to put up the last shot. However, as Campbell drove to the basket, he was called for traveling with 5.1 seconds left.

Stow committed three quick fouls to try to get the ball back, but Toppin made their task harder by hitting both ends of a one-and-one with 3.1 seconds left.

Campbell was able to get off a 3-pointer, but it was partially blocked as time expired.

Toppin and forward Jake Penkalski each finished with 10 points for the Bears. Horn finished with nine points for Stow.