Copeland's clutch free throws lead Stow boys basketball past Twinsburg

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Stow-Munroe Falls forward Desmond Copeland splits a pair of Twinsburg defenders during the Bulldogs' 37-36 overtime win over the Tigers Friday at home. Copeland led all scorers with 15 points.

STOW — Dave Close and Phil Schmook are two grizzled, old veterans of the high school basketball scene.

The two coaches have built their careers on hard-nosed defense and fundamental offense.

When Close's Bulldogs played host to Schmook's Tigers Friday at the James G. Tyree Gymnasium, the game reflected the coaches' grinding nature.

Stow-Munroe Falls forward Desmond Copeland made two free throws with 3.5 seconds left in overtime, banking home the winning shot in a 37-36 win over Twinsburg.

The result continued a trend for both teams since each returned from COVID-19 restrictions in early January. Stow (8-5) scored its eighth consecutive win, but the Tigers (2-9) remain unable to find the winning formula.

Close was happy with his team's effort, even if the game was far from aesthetically pleasing.

"We couldn't get any shots to fall tonight," he said. "We missed 3s, we missed layups, we missed open shots. We've got to be able to forget about missed and move on to the next shot.

"Twinsburg played well on defense," he added. "Their defense is designed to take you out of your offense. We did a good job on defense."

Schmook noted he changed up his starting lineup a bit to give the Tigers spark.

"We were up there on them for most of the game," he said. "We had a lot of good looks, but we just didn't hit shots. Here's how the night went for us: He banked in the winning free throw. It just wasn't our night."

Twinsburg forward PJ Suggs passes the ball during the Tigers' 37-36 overtime loss at Stow-Munroe Falls Friday.

Copeland admitted he did not call "bank" on the winning free throw, but was happy to hit both shots after missing two free throws earlier in overtime.

"It was in my head a little bit," Copeland said. "Every day after practice, I shoot free throws. It's something I've thought about for years: Hitting the winning shot with a second left."

Copeland finished with a game-high 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

"It was huge for him to hit those shots," Close said. "It was pretty impressive. That's something he can really build upon in the future."

Early on, it was the Tigers' young guns that had the edge.

Sophomore guards David Coniglio and Adam Williams combined to lead the Tigers to an 11-5 lead after one quarter. Williams and Coniglio each scored nine points to lead the Tigers, along with senior forward Dante' Yarbrough.

Schmook noted Williams is taking advantage of a chance to start.

"He did a really nice job for us tonight," Schmook said. "Reggie Bussey, one of our best players, is out, so Adam is stepping up."

Stow's offense seemed stuck in neutral until forward Marvin Campbell scored seven consecutive points early in the second quarter.

Campbell keyed a 9-0 run, which gave Stow a 14-13 lead with 4:31 left in the first half. Campbell finished with 13 points.

A layup by Twinsburg forward PJ Suggs just before the buzzer sent the game to the half tied at 17-17.

Twinsburg looked to seize control with a 10-1 run midway through the third quarter, giving the Tigers a 27-20 lead.

But Stow cut the deficit to 27-24 after three quarters, and the margin stayed within one possession for the entire fourth quarter.

Stow struggled from the free-throw line, shooting 8-of-16, but the Tigers went just 3-of-5 from the line.

Stow center Van Shyjka scored five of his seven points in the fourth quarter, while Copeland was a menace down low.

"We had no answer for them down low," Schmook said. "I thought we were in good positions, but we didn't get any calls."

Copeland made a layup with 1:20 left to tie the score at 33-33. Schmook chose to have his team hold the ball for the last shot.

Williams got a solid look at a 15-foot jumper, but it bounced off the rim and over the backboard with two seconds left. Stow's final shot in regulation went well wide.

Both teams continued to play deliberate basketball in overtime. Campbell opened the extra session with a nice fake that led to a layup with just under three minutes left.

Copeland had a chance to make it a two-possession game with 54 seconds left, but he missed two free throws and Campbell had a layup attempt rim out.

On Twinsburg's next possession, Williams hit a 3-pointer, giving the Tigers a 36-35 lead with 15.4 seconds left.

Stow fed the ball inside to Copeland on its final possession. Copeland drove to the low post and drew Yarbrough's fifth foul to set up his winning free throws with 3.5 seconds left.

Yarbrough finished with nine points and 13 rebounds before fouling out.

After Stow committed a foul with two seconds left, Williams had Twinsburg's last shot. However, his 30-foot shot bounced off the front of the rim.