During Dave Close's successful tenure as coach of Stow-Munroe Falls boys basketball, defense and rebounding have always been staples of his team.
On Dec. 27 against neighboring Kent Roosevelt, Close's squad throttled the young Rough Riders' offense while dominating the boards to the tune of 35-11.
It all added up to a 60-36 non-league victory for the Bulldogs, who posted their third win in a row.
Stow also defeated Cleveland East Tech 57-47 at home Dec. 22.
Behind 10 points from 6-foot-2 junior Matt Beech and a 10-3 rebounding edge, the Bulldogs (5-3) were able to establish an early inside game and eight-point lead after one quarter.
"He's a bull in a China shop," said Close. "He just goes hard and has tremendous body control. He gets around people very effectively, very tenacious."
Beech finished with a game-high 20 points. His success in the paint opened up the perimeter for junior guard Mike Zavodnik, who drained four three-pointers en route to a 14-point evening.
"The kids executed very nicely early as far as moving the ball around," said Close. "When they adjusted to Beech, then the guards stepped up and made some shots. We made some decent plays against their pressure a little bit. We need to clean that up a little more. In all, we handled their full-court pressure and found the open people. That's what you want to do."
Roosevelt (3-3) closed the first half on a 6-2 run to trail at the half by only eight points. Kent then capped the third stanza with an 8-2 flurry to trim a 16-point deficit to 10.
But Stow was never really in danger, thanks to its work on the boards, which left the Rough Riders one shot and done.
"We're not very big, my post guys are 6-1, 6-2, but our kids block out very, very hard," said Close. "They go get the ball. That's a toughness thing, and our kids are pretty tough."
The Bulldogs sealed the fate of the Rough Riders by reeling off the first 10 points of the final quarter, while holding the hosts scoreless until only 2:07 remained to be played.
Corey Mitchell, Myles Wright and Joe Watts each had 10 points to pace the Rough Riders, but the offense was never able to get in any flow against the always-stingy Stow defense.
Against East Tech, Beech had a field day, putting up 26 points. Jacob Williams added 10 points.
Stow will next set action Jan. 4 against backyard rival Hudson at home. Varsity game time is set for 7:30 p.m.