No one said life in the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division was supposed to be easy.
The Stow-Munroe Falls girls basketball team has seen its share of ups and downs in the division during its two-year tenure.
Take one look at the Bulldogs' record.
In non-division games this season, Stow has been a juggernaut, going 3-0 and winning by an average of nearly 34 points.
In the division, however, Stow is 2-2.
Needless to say, coach Bob Podges believes the Bulldogs aren't likely to find tougher competition than in the Valley Division.
Stow split a pair of Valley Division games last week.
On Dec. 15, Stow travelled to defending state champion Twinsburg and was handed its worst loss of the season 63-36.
However, the Bulldogs rebounded at home Dec. 18, as they defeated NOC newcomer Shaker Heights 48-36.
Podges said the loss to Twinsburg wasn't due to lack of effort. Any thoughts the two-time defending Division I state champion Tigers would take a step back this year without All-American Malina Howard -- now playing at Maryland -- have been erased.
If anything, the Tigers have looked better in their December games than they did a season ago.
"I think Twinsburg is playing very well right now," Podges said. "They scored inside and out. They did a nice job. Twinsburg is a very good basketball team."
Stow saw Twinsburg sprint out to a lead of 19-8 after one quarter and 29-13 at halftime. The Tigers were never threatened thereafter.
Twinsburg was led by senior guard Brooke Smith with 15 points, while guard Ashley Morrissette had 14.
Guard Baleigh Reid scored 12 for the Tigers , while center Char-dell Dunnigan scored eight points and snagged 11 rebounds.
"They're more guard oriented now and they've got three good ones," Podges said.
Meanwhile, Stow didn't have a single player in double figures. Forward Danielle Tiller led the Bulldogs with nine points.
Twinsburg also had a 30-28 rebounding edge against the Bulldogs.
Back home against the Red Raiders Dec. 19, the Bulldogs let their defense do the talking.
"Tonight, we played really well defensively," Podges said. "They couldn't handle our press and committed a lot of turnovers. In the half-court we were pretty solid too.
"It was a good win for us," Podges added. "We had a big early lead tonight and we played a lot of kids. I was pretty happy with the way we played."
Stow was able to establish leads of 13-6 after one quarter and 28-13 at hafltime. The Bulldogs were in cruise control in the second half.
Podges noted that he substituted his bench so liberally that Stow's scoring balance was spread out.
Guard Sam Shaver led the Bulldogs with 10 points, while center Maddie Baer added nine points and 12 rebounds. Guard Abbie Lawson added eight points and guard Jessie Stout had seven.
Stow also won the rebounding battle 29-27 against the Red Raiders.
Stow was set to host Canton GlenOak Dec. 22, but results were not available at press time.
After Christmas, Stow will participate in the Tallmadge Holiday Tournament Dec. 27 and 28.
Stow will take on Kent Roosevelt Dec. 27 at 6 p.m., followed by Tallmadge taking on Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy at 7:30 p.m.
On Dec. 28, the varsity consolation game will tip at 6 p.m. followed by the championship game at 7:30 p.m.