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MEDINA -- In the last two years, the Stow-Munroe Falls boys basketball team ran into the same opponent in district play at Copley High School.
Pardon Bulldog fans if they won't be too anxious to see that opponent again any time soon.
Second-seeded Medina earned its second consecutive trip to the Copley Division I district title game after earning a hard-fought 58-56 victory over the fourth-seeded Bulldogs in a district semifinal game March 9.
Sadly for Stow, Medina broke the Bulldogs' hearts for the second straight year.
On the very same court and in the very same round of the 2016 postseason, the Bees ended Stow's season with a 52-47 win.
With the loss, the Bulldogs finished 18-6. Medina improved to 17-7 and earned a date with top-seeded Akron Archbishop Hoban in the district title game, which was scheduled for March 11. Results were not available at press time.
It was a back-and-forth affair for much of the way. Stow, which has battled some consistency issues and some untimely lapses throughout the season, gave the high-scoring Bees all they could handle.
But the Bulldogs fell just a bit short once again.
"I thought we competed," Stow head coach Dave Close said. "We battled for 32 minutes and we focused on the game plan. I thought the guys played with championship effort. If we played this well all year, who knows where we'd be right now."
The Bulldogs' fate was sealed in the final seconds of the game.
Leading 58-56 with 4.6 seconds left, Medina had a chance to ice it at the free throw line.
However, guard Jackson Sartain missed the front end of a one-and-one situation and Stow junior 6-foot-8 forward Mason McMurray got the rebound.
Although the Bulldogs had three time-outs left, McMurray took a few dribbles and launched a shot from half court just before the buzzer.
The shot was on line, but wound up hitting the back of the rim before falling to the floor.
"We were running a play at the time," Close said. "We needed an outlet. Guys were still in position. I always thought it was better to run a play while they're scrambling. If we run the play, we might have had something, but we just panicked."
Stow led 14-11 after the first eight minutes and 33-30 at halftime.
The Bees, who had turnover issues for much of the evening, found a spark in the third quarter and built a 42-37 advantage late in the quarter when senior point guard Ben Geschke knocked down a jumper.
But the Bulldogs rallied.
After a layup on a backdoor cut by senior point guard Jared Wright off a well-placed bounce pass from junior guard Coryon Rice, Stow concluded a 7-0 run to take a 44-42 lead.
The game proved to be a seesaw battle the rest of the way until the Bulldogs had some difficulties late.
Trailing 54-53, Stow had the ball with less than two minutes left. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs committed a critical turnover.
The ball went to McMurray in the post, but Sartain stole the ball and senior forward Luke Schaefer finished with a layup on the other end to give Medina a 56-53 lead.
"I thought we had a mismatch in the post," Close said. "I thought we got fouled, but there was no call. That was a tough swing for us."
The Bulldogs missed a 3-pointer on their next possession and then junior guard Dylan Fultz made it 58-53 in favor of the Bees when he converted both ends of a one-and-one situation with 13.6 seconds left.
Rice answered with a 3-pointer to make it 58-56 with 7 seconds remaining, but Stow was forced to foul.
"That's an outstanding basketball team," Close said. "They are very deep and very balanced. There wasn't a big margin for error."
Since the margin for error was razor thin, Close was left to wonder about what might have been on several occasions.
The Bulldogs missed some layups and took some quick shots from long range. They also missed a front end of a one-and-one opportunity late in the game and they had some costly turnovers.
"We were running our offense well and then we had a five-possession stretch where we took some quick, deep threes," Close said. "That turned the tide a little bit."
Schaefer scored seven of his game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Bees.
Geschke and Sartain contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively, for Medina.
McMurray and Wright each led Stow with 11 points and Rice finished with 10 points.
Close praised his players after the game, particularly his senior class.
"I told them that I loved them and I appreciated their commitment to the team and to the program," he said.