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STOW -- Such a concept would seem unthinkable.
Perhaps the Stow-Munroe Falls boys basketball players may have let their minds wander a little bit against an opponent that has been their No. 1 rival for many years.
The same could not be said for that particular rival. Despite being down an almost insurmountable deficit, Cuyahoga Falls made the Bulldogs do some unexpected sweating in the early stages of the fourth quarter.
In the end, the final result was as expected. Stow, which has been a thorn in the Black Tigers' side for many years, got the best of its archrival.
But it was a lesson learned for both teams.
The Bulldogs kept their Suburban League National Conference title hopes alive with a 68-54 victory over host Falls Feb. 14 at Coach Tom Jones Court.
With the win, Stow improved to 14-4 overall and 11-1 in the National Conference as of press time. The Bulldogs are the lone team with one loss in the conference. That became the case after Wadsworth handed Brecksville-Broadview Heights a 53-39 defeat Feb. 14. Both the Grizzlies and Bees were 10-2 in the conference as of press time.
Stow has won six straight games since the start of the 2014-15 season against the Black Tigers (7-12, 2-10). It was the Bulldogs' fifth consecutive win.
"We kept getting down and then battling back," Falls head coach Kenny Johnson said. "They [the Bulldogs] kept making threes. They are very well-coached. You don't know who to look for with them. They have an option 2 and an option 3."
Stow, which outscored the Black Tigers 12-2 in the second quarter to take a 31-17 halftime lead, led wire to wire against its archival to the south. The Bulldogs simply had too many weapons and Falls couldn't match up with Stow's plethora of 3-point shooters.
But the Black Tigers, who also lost to Nordonia 49-36 Feb. 10 in Macedonia, continued to plod away and despite being down as many as 24 (45-21) midway through the third quarter, got the Bulldogs a bit discombobulated, thanks to a big run.
Falls concluded the third period with a 15-5 spurt and when senior guard Nick Siegferth drained a 3-pointer from the right side with less than five minutes left, it was suddenly a seven-point game (55-48).
"We had some lapses," Stow head coach Dave Close said. "We were sloppy on defense and gave up penetration. That led to a domino of problems. We took some quick shots and they got some offensive rebounds."
However, the Bulldogs had 6-foot-8 junior forward Mason McMurray on their side. And the Black Tigers had no way of stopping him.
On the following possession, McMurray converted a 3-point play and then added two more free throws 18 seconds later to seal the deal.
McMurray, who has given opponents fits with his ability to post up, take the ball off the dribble and drain 3-pointers from anywhere on the court throughout the season, knocked down three triples and made 5-of-6 from the foul line to finish with a game-high 26 points. He scored 19 of those points in the second half.
"McMurray had a great game," Johnson said. "He shot the ball well inside and outside. He's hard to guard because you can't leave anyone else open. There's not much you can do other than hope he misses the shot."
McMurray, thanks to his ability to score in a variety of ways has been Stow's main go-to threat in recent weeks.
"Mason is a very versatile young man," Close said. "He's an inside-out guy who can put on the floor a little bit. He came up big for us."
Junior guard Coryon Rice and 6-8 sophomore forward Evan Bainbridge each had 9 points for Stow, which made eight 3-pointers. A total of eight players scored at least three points for the Bulldogs.
Both teams finished with 25 rebounds, but a major reason why Falls was able to get it back within shouting distance was because of its work in the trenches.
The Black Tigers, led by 6-6 senior forward Troy Tofil, got a majority of the rebounds in the second half and were able to keep possessions alive, thanks to their work on the offensive glass.
"We need to peak," Close said. "We need to remain diligent and be strong and disciplined."
Tofil scored 12 of his 19 points after halftime and made all seven of his free throw attempts.
Sophomore guard Dylan Ball contributed 9 points on a trio of 3-pointers off the bench and senior guard Ka'Von Gainer had 8 points for Falls.
Stow was scheduled to visit Brecksville Feb. 17. Results were not available at press time.
The Bulldogs are set to host Massillon Washington Feb. 21 before heading to North Royalton for a National Conference showdown Feb. 24. Both varsity contests are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.
Stow received the fourth seed at the Copley Division I sectional-district tournament.
The Bulldogs earned a first-round bye and are set to host the Highland-Walsh Jesuit winner in a sectional title game March 4 at 7 p.m.
Akron Archbishop Hoban received the top seed and Medina and Brunswick got the second and third seeds, respectively.