STOW: Cuyahoga Falls senior basketball player Josh Ricker said Friday he stands “6-foot on a good day” and weighs 185 pounds.
All 6-foot of Ricker was a tad nervous as Cuyahoga Falls visited rival Stow in a key Northeast Ohio Conference River Division game.
The host Bulldogs came out firing, but the Black Tigers rallied back behind the scoring of Ricker and senior Angelo Cugini to earn a 56-45 victory.
“I can’t speak for everyone else, but I was shaking during warm-ups and I have been playing varsity for four years,” said Ricker, who finished with 19 points, six assists and three rebounds.
“I can say that I haven’t been this nervous for any game. This is a big win for our team. Anytime you win here is big because not a lot of teams do. This is a huge rivalry.”
Cuyahoga Falls sits atop the NOC River standings at 10-3 overall and 6-0 in the division. Stow is 11-4, 4-2 in the division.
“Last year we kind of got lucky here,” Ricker said. “We had a buzzer beater shot [from 2013 graduate Henry Shaw]. It was a horrible game. I had zero [points] myself. We just all played kinda bad. This year, when we beat them at home [40-36 on Dec. 6] we got excited. We were like ‘Man, we have to win both.’ This is probably one of the biggest games in the history of Cuyahoga Falls versus Stow because this is for the conference. Now we are undefeated in the conference and Stow’s only losses are to us twice.”
Falls still has NOC River games at home against Hudson and Twinsburg, and it plays at Brush and Solon.
Cugini, who is 6-7 and 205 pounds, scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Junior Tyler Adams scored seven points, and junior Cameron Thomas added six points.
“It was a hard fought game,” Cugini said. “It always is when Cuyahoga Falls plays Stow. We knew we had to come in here and out-work them and get the boards and we knew they were going to play good D. We just had to compose ourselves, work hard and come out of here with a W.”
Cugini, born in Akron, knows all about the rivalry. He is a Silver Lake resident, which feeds into Cuyahoga Falls, after living in Stow for most of his youth.
“They are a great defensive team,” Cugini said. “It doesn’t matter how good of a scorer you are, they can break you down at any point. Our bench guys came up big today.”
Senior Matt Beech paced Stow with 21 points. Senior Jacob Williams added 10 points, and senior Bryan Ritchie grabbed 10 points.
Cuyahoga Falls coach Rob Slone said he was pleased how his team came back from a 14-11 deficit after one quarter. Ricker, Cugini and Thomas accounted for 16 points in the second quarter and helped Falls lead 27-19 at halftime
“When we take quality shots and high percentage shots, we are usually a pretty good shooting team,” Slone said. “It is a huge win to get on this floor. To beat them twice in a year, for our program, is a climax point for some of these kids.”
Seniors Simon Moskowitz and Jay Slone and junior Nick Winar accounted for 11 points for Falls, which led 39-33 after three and maintained the edge in the fourth quarter.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org.