Stow routs Hudson 67-32, shares Suburban League National Conference girls basketball title

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Stow's Kristin Chmielewski brings the ball up the floor during Monday's 67-32 Suburban League National Conference victory over Hudson in Stow. [Photo courtesy of K.M. Klemencic]

STOW — Hudson's Dennis Lawler and Stow-Munroe Falls' Bob Podges have a long friendship intertwined with their careers coaching girls basketball.

The court has been a refuge for both men this season, as it has been a trying winter off the court, both personally and due to COVID-19 issues.

Those COVID delays forced the rivalry game between Stow and Hudson to be delayed all the way to Presidents' Day, as the Explorers traveled to James G. Tyree Gymnasium Monday.

This rivalry has been one-side in recent years and that trend continued in Stow's 67-32 win.

The game meant a lot to Bulldogs (20-2), who gained a share of the Suburban League National Conference title for the fifth consecutive year. Stow, Nordonia and Wadsworth all finished 6-1 in the conference.

Podges said cutting down the net was an annual occurrence for Stow's Class of 2021, as his seniors had won league titles every year since the seventh grade.

"You know how hard it is to win league championships for five straight seasons in high school ball." Podges said. "We've had some good players roll out of here. To maintain that level at a program is amazing.

"This has been a remarkable year. The lesson that this season has brought is that these kids came in to work and kept at it, no matter what was happening. This is going to help make them strong women in the future."

Hudson senior Delaney DiGeronimo starts a drive during Stow's 67-32 Suburban League National Conference win Monday at Stow. [Photo courtesy of K.M. Klemencic]

Bulldogs senior forward Bella Adams said it was "very important" for Stow to claim the title, mostly to honor Podges, whose wife recently passed away.

"He's been through a lot this year," Adams said. "We've been there for him and he's been there for us. We want to do everything we can for him."

As for Lawler, he commended Stow for playing sharp basketball, and said his team has had a rough go due to COVID. He said the Explorers (8-7) most recent pause ended on Thursday.

"It's been tough this year," Lawler said. "Three times this year, we've had to stop because of COVID. Seems like every time we were able to get a winning streak going, we had to stop."

Stow made it clear they were playing at full throttle from the start. The Bulldogs opened the game on a 7-0 run.

After Hudson guard Ali Menendez nailed two 3-pointers, Stow finished the first quarter on another 7-0 run to lead 17-6.

Menendez led the Explorers with 11 points.

Stow got contributions from all over, as four Bulldogs finished in double figures.

Senior guard Lilee Carlson led the way, pumping in nine of her game-high 18 points in the second quarter.

Carlson was the impetus for a 13-1 run to close the first half with Stow leading 40-12.

"I think our effort was better in the second half than the first half," Lawler said. "I'll always go to battle for my girls."

"Dennis' teams are always going to play hard," Podges said. "I have great respect for him. He's a great friend and coach. He gets the most out of his players."

Hudson had more success on offense in the second half, but Stow had their junior varsity on for long stretches of the second half.

Adams finished with 10 points and six rebounds, highlighted by a sequence in the third quarter when she blocked a shot on one end, hustled down the court and scored on a putback.

Forward Kristin Chmielewski scored a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and senior guard Krista McDowell added 10 points off the bench.

Ahead 54-24 after three quarters, Stow led by as many as 39 points before Podges emptied his bench.

Hudson's postseason is over after a 57-35 loss at Canfield Saturday but the Explorers still plan on playing at least two more regular season games, beginning with a home game Friday at Cuyahoga Falls.

As for Stow, its regular season is over and they turn their attention to a sectional final game Thursday vs. Warren Howland.

"We have a lot of basketball still to play," Podges said. "We want to win a district title, we want to win a regional title and we want to get to the state final four. We want to do it our way, with our system and as a family."