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HUDSON -- His team has had no trouble with a certain rival in recent years.
But that doesn't mean Stow-Munroe Falls head girls basketball coach Bob Podges let his players get ahead of themselves.
"Our motivation is not to take anyone lightly," he said. "We're playing for a conference championship."
So far, so good.
The Lady Bulldogs kept their Suburban League National Conference title hopes alive with a lopsided 68-37 victory over Hudson Feb. 6 at Hudson High School's Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
With the win, Stow, which also defeated National Conference rival Brecksville-Broadview Heights 66-32 Feb. 8 at home, improved to 18-2 overall and 12-1 in the National Conference.
The Lady Bulldogs were tied atop the National Conference standings with Twinsburg, which defeated Nordonia 68-34 Feb. 8, as of press time.
The Lady Explorers, on the other hand, have been out of the National Conference title race for quite some time. Hudson (5-15, 3-10), which also lost to National Conference foe Wadsworth 60-34 Feb. 8 on the road, had a four-game losing streak as of press time.
Of course, the Lady Explorers didn't exactly run into a couple of cupcakes.
The Lady Grizzlies are the reigning Division I state champions and Stow, which stormed out to a 21-5 lead after the first eight minutes, reached Division I regional play last season.
"They're good," Hudson head coach Dennis Lawler said of the Lady Bulldogs. "They hit a couple of shots and they got some loose balls and turned those into points. Playing a team like that, we can't give them too many extra possessions. They had way too many offensive rebounds."
He's not exaggerating.
Stow had 16 offensive rebounds compared to just three for Hudson. Leading the Lady Bulldogs on the glass was Lauren Turschak. The senior forward had 18 rebounds for Stow.
"Lauren and [sophomore forward] Lizzy Stefanov are really tough, good rebounders," Podges said.
Thanks to the hot shooting of senior forward Lindsey Molnar, the Lady Bulldogs took control late in the first quarter.
Molnar knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers late in the period and finished with 15 points on five triples.
Stow was one or two steps ahead of the Lady Explorers throughout the evening.
The Lady Bulldogs moved the ball around and made a habit of finding wide-open teammates.
And of course, Stow's defense, which has been its strength throughout the season, made life extremely difficult for Hudson's offense.
The Lady Bulldogs forced turnovers, contested and blocked shots and thanks to their ability to crash the boards, held the Lady Explorers to many one-and-done possessions.
"We moved the ball well," Stow head coach Bob Podges said. "We didn't shoot it well. We had stretches where we rushed shots and didn't take the right shot. But I'm not going to overanalyze after we won by 31."
The catalyst of Stow's attack was 5-foot-5 sophomore point guard Lexi Petit. She found open teammates, hustled into traffic to get rebounds and also was a threat from the perimeter. Petit finished with a team-high 17 points and drained three 3-pointers.
"Lexi is the true essence of a point guard," Podges said.
Junior guard Theresa Parr and Stefanov each scored 8 points for the Lady Bulldogs.
Senior guard Ava Cristofoli led Hudson with a game-high 18 points and sophomore guard Emma Messina finished with 8 points. No other player scored more than four points for the Lady Explorers.
"We played hard," Lawler said. "We just don't do the little things. They understand what we have to do. If we don't rebound the basketball, we're going to be in trouble."
Hudson earned a 35-28 win in the junior varsity contest.
Against Brecksville, Stow got off to another quick start, taking leads of 23-8 after one quarter and 38-8 at halftime.
It was Senior Night for Stow, as the Bulldogs honored Turschak, Molnar and guard Kayla Adams before the game.
Stow had a balanced attack, as Parr and Andrassy guard Emily Andrassy each had 12 points for Stow, while Molnar and Stefanov each had 11. Adams picked up a career-high six points.
Stow received the second seed at the Akron Division I sectional-district tournament. Canton McKinley earned the top seed and Austintown-Fitch and Canfield got the third and fourth seeds, respectively.
The Lady Bulldogs are scheduled to play 10th-seeded Akron North in a sectional semifinal game Feb. 18 at 1 p.m.
Stow is set to visit St. Vincent-St. Mary Feb. 11 in Akron. Results were not available at press time.
The Lady Bulldogs are scheduled to conclude their regular season against National Conference foe North Royalton Feb. 15 on the road. Game time is set for 7 p.m.