COPLEY: Stow senior Matt Beech was too much for Firestone to handle, and the Bulldogs dismantled the Falcons’ multiple defensive looks in a 57-37 win in a Division I sectional semifinal at Copley High School on Wednesday night.
Beech finished with 25 points against a talented and athletic interior defense from Firestone. Stow (11-12) led 30-15 at halftime and Beech had equaled the Falcons by himself with 15 points. He also had four rebounds and four assists for the game.
“He’s kind of deceptive,” Stow coach Dave Close said. “You look at him and you’re not sure how good he can be. He’s tenacious. He’s been carrying the lion’s share of the load for us all year and he’s a very efficient player.”
Beech often went up against talented Firestone senior Jerome Lane, whom he called “a beast” after the game. Just before halftime, Beech drew a lot of contact on Lane, switched to his left hand and still got the ball to drop. Beech roared as he ran back down the court, the emotion of going toe-to-toe with one of the City Series’ most athletic players being let out.
“We had to get on the boards pretty bad because of Lane,” Beech said. “We did a lot of box-out drills all week. That was my moment, like maybe he’s not as good as everybody says he is.”
Lane finished the game with eight points. Junior forward Evan Kennedy led the Falcons with 13 points.
Stow freshman Nathan Bower, the smallest player on the court, had 12 points, six coming off his four offensive rebounds. Junior Jacob Williams scored 13 points.
All of Stow’s first-quarter baskets (six field goals, 15 points) came off assists, a good sign for the Bulldogs, who run Close’s tight offensive system.
The Falcons (13-10) ran zone, man-to-man and trap defenses against Stow. The Bulldogs fought through each change, scoring at an even pace each quarter (15 points, 15, 12, 15).
“I’m really proud with how our kids responded, reacted and adjusted, and kept moving the ball and found the open guy in a less-orthodox style of defense,” Close said. “We had some shaky moments but had good ball movement, found open people, got some nice shots inside.”
Stow will face second-seeded Twinsburg in a sectional final on Saturday.
Highland 52, Medina 44
A primarily defensive-oriented Highland (13-10) found its offense on Wednesday night.
The Hornets had relied on their defense in recent weeks but opened up some space against Medina (13-10), including two full-court passes that went for layups, both finished by sophomore Brogan Scott, who had a game-high 24 points.
“We’ve been executing especially on defense for a long stretch of games, but tonight we made some shots and did some things offensively,” Highland coach Michael Murphy said. “Even though we had some close losses down here in the stretch, I think we’ve made a nice little run.”
Medina won this district last year with standout Kenny Kaminski, a Michigan State recruit. For Highland’s seniors, it was their first tournament win.
“Tonight was extra special,” Murphy said, who was pleased holding Medina to 13 first-half points. “In high school basketball, all of us have a couple of scorers and everybody feeds off of those guys. When you take them away, it puts everybody out of position. I felt we accomplished that in the first half. Defense gets it done and this team works their tails off on defense. I demand that, and I’m getting that.”
Sophomore Tanner Houska and senior Brennan Scott each added nine points. Medina senior Billy Geshke had 11 points.
Highland will next face No. 3 seed Hudson in a sectional final on Saturday.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.