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Stow boys advance to district play despite scare from Highland

Published: March 4, 2017 9:02 PM
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The Stow-Munroe Falls boys basketball team has had a knack for making its fans a bit uneasy during long stretches of games throughout the season.
Well, they will have to be on their edge of their seats for at least one more game.
That's because the Bulldogs are heading to a spot that has become all too familiar over the years.
That would be the district tournament.
Despite a huge scare from a scrappy opponent, fourth-seeded Stow advanced to the Copley Division I district semifinals after posting a come-from-behind 44-39 victory over sixth-seeded Granger Township Highland.
The contest took place March 4 at James G. Tyree Gymnasium. With the win, the Bulldogs earned a date with second-seeded Medina in a district semifinal game March 9 at Copley High School. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
The Bees advanced with a 64-53 win over 11th-seeded Nordonia.
Like it has in a number of contests this season, Stow had its share of lapses. The Bulldogs had trouble finding their rhythm on both ends of the floor in the early going and the Hornets led 19-11 early in the second quarter.
But Stow, thanks mainly to 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Evan Bainbridge, turned up the defensive pressure and took the lead late in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs outscored Highland 15-4 in the period to take a 25-21 advantage into the locker room. Suddenly, the Hornets, who showed good ball movement and a soft shooting touch in the first eight minutes, went completely cold the rest of the half. Highland made just 1-of-14 shots from the floor in the second quarter.
Bainbridge, due to his ability to rotate when the Highland guards penetrated, forced the Hornets to change their shots in midair. As a result, Highland had several one-and-done possessions.
Bainbridge, who also had his best offensive performance of the season, continued to be a presence in the low post the rest of the way.
With Bainbridge lurking near the basket, the Hornets simply could not find their offense.
Highland converted just 2-of-12 shots from the floor in the third period. Stow led 33-25 heading into the final eight minutes.
Amazingly, the Hornets managed to make things interesting late.
In fact, thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers in the right corner by Collin Rittman and Ryan Frederick, the Bulldogs' lead was just one (39-38) with 2 minutes, 42 seconds left in the game.
Highland even had a chance to take the lead, but Stow 6-8 junior forward Mason McMurray, who found himself in foul trouble for much of the game, came up with a huge steal with a little more than 90 seconds left.
Moments later, McMurray made it 41-38 in favor of the Bulldogs with a putback and Bainbridge, who finished with a season-high and game-high 20 points, knocked down a free throw to make it a four-point game (42-38) with 33.8 seconds left.
Rittman then made 1-of-2 at the line with 13.4 seconds remaining and Stow senior point guard Jared Wright sealed the deal when he converted both ends of a one-and-one situation with 7.9 left. Wright's free throws made it 44-39.
Bainbridge found his stroke in the second quarter. He scored eight points in the period and had 10 points in the second half.
The sophomore standout made two 3-pointers, but he did most of his damage inside with a plethora of short bank shots and baby hooks.
Other than Bainbridge, the Bulldogs didn't have much scoring punch from the rest of the team.
McMurray finished with 7 points and senior guard Logan Lindsay and junior guard Coryon Rice finished with 6 and 5 points, respectively.
But the Hornets' shooting woes and costly turnovers on key possessions allowed Stow to escape.
Rittman led Highland with 15 points. Frederick added 8 points for the Hornets, who made 6-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Stow, which has been stellar from the free throw line throughout the season, had its second straight subpar game at the stripe. The Bulldogs made just 10-of-19 shots.


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