Throughout Bob Podges' tenure, Stow-Munroe Falls girls basketball has been based on defense.
In two of Stow's three games last week, the Bulldogs' defense was on brilliant display.
Stow continued its dominance of non-division foes last week, beginning with a 62-41 demolition of Massillon Jackson Jan. 3 at home.
However, on Jan. 5 at Solon, the Bulldogs went away from their defensive principles a bit and suffered a 70-53 loss.
On Jan. 9 at home, however, Stow put up an amazing first-half display on the defensive end and coasted to a 55-29 win over Holy Name 55-29.
As of press time, Stow's record stood at 2-3 in the Valley Division, but 10-3 overall.
Against the Polar Bears, Stow spotted Jackson a 20-16 lead after one quarter, but outscored Jackson 46-21 the rest of the way.
"Jackson shot the ball extremely well [in the first quarter]," Podges said. "They made eight of their first 10 shots. After that, our defense kicked in."
Junior center Maddie Baer led the Bulldogs with 12 points, while senior guard Abbie Lawson added 10 points. Sophomore guard Chrissy Vaughn and junior forward Danielle Tiller each had nine.
Against Solon, Stow started slow again, spotting Solon a 19-10 first-quarter lead. This time, the Bulldogs couldn't recover.
Lawson and Baer led the Bulldogs with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
However, Stow had no answer for Solon forward Martha Thompson, who finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals.
"She drove to the basket very well all night," Podges said of Thompson.
Solon also got 20 points and five steals from Jordan Bekelja and 18 from Kristen Confroy.
Podges said the Bulldogs switched from their normal "pack" defense against the Comets, but the move backfired.
"The theory was to try to face-guard their two guards," Podges said. "They ended up driving the lane pretty well against us. We went against our defensive principles. Next time, we won't do that, even if it means giving up threes."
Podges said the Bulldogs went back to working on their "pack" defense prior to the game with the Green Wave.
Podges noted the defense is predicated on putting pressure on the opponent's ball handlers. Should Stow get beaten off the dribble, the defense collapses and funnels the ball towards Baer, whose shot-blocking prowess disrupts the offense.
To say the system worked against Holy Name was an understatement.
Stow held the Green Wave without a field goal in the entire first half.
Holy Name's offense in the first 16 minutes included two free throws from forward Erica Davis in the first quarter and two free throws from forward Kim Cook in the second quarter.
Beyond that, Holy Name was barren from the floor.
"Our defense was really playing well tonight," Podges said. "We did everything we wanted to on the defensive end."
On offense, Stow wasn't exactly lighting it up in the first half, but it didn't need to.
"We're struggling a bit on offense, but that comes down to repetition in practice," Podges said. "We spent a lot of time on defense the last few days. We'll focus more on offense ahead of Medina."
Stow led 21-4 after one half, but the 17-point lead felt like a 71-point advantage.
Cook finally got the Green Wave's first field goal on a layup with 7:28 left in the third quarter.
However, just as Holy name found its shooting touch, so did the Bulldogs.
Stow outscored Holy Name 17-10 in the third quarter, pushing the lead to 38-14.
Stow led by as many as 30 before Podges emptied his bench with five minutes left in the game.
As usual, Stow's scoring was very balanced. Nine different Bulldogs scored in the contest, led by sophomore Sam Shaver and Tiller with 10 points each. Vaughn added eight points, while Baer had six points, eight assists and a handful of blocked shots.
Stow was set to face Medina Jan. 12, but results were not available at press time.
Stow will be off until the weekend. The Bulldogs will travel to Zanesville Jan. 19 and 20 to participate in the Route 40 Classic at West Muskingum High School.
Stow will take on Newark Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. and Columbus St. Francis DeSales. Jan. 20 at 3:15 p.m.