STOW: Stow recovered from a couple of runs by visiting East and made enough free throws down the stretch to beat the Dragons 47-44 on Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs (6-4) trailed 39-31 to start the fourth quarter but held East to five points in the final eight minutes and made 10-of-13 free throws in the closing minutes to overtake East with two minutes to play.
Stow’s Jacob Williams made both free-throw attempts to extend Stow’s lead to 47-44 with 19.7 seconds left to play. East sophomore Derik Lewis’ 3-point attempt from the corner was heavily defended and came up short as time expired. Stow’s final 10 points came from the free-throw line.
“That last stretch of the game, the kids did a nice job of getting to the foul line [and] getting foul shots,” Stow coach Dave Close said. “We did a better job down the stretch of holding them to only one shot. There were some stretches where we weren’t doing a very good job of that, and that was pretty critical.”
Thanks to junior Mike Zavodnik’s three 3-pointers in the first quarter and four in the first half, Stow jumped out to an 18-11 lead. East coach Ross Fiorello called a timeout to halt Stow’s momentum, and East answered with a 9-0 run. Later, a couple of close calls went Stow’s way, and East (5-4) was called for a technical foul but then answered with an 11-0 run, eight points from senior Demetrius Ray.
The Bulldogs remained in their offense and slowly chipped away at the Dragons’ lead, not panicking even though the momentum swung heavily in East’s favor.
“They made like three 3s to take a nice lead against us when we had been controlling the game,” Close said. “But the good thing was we battled back and got into it one play at a time. We didn’t try to rush, we methodically got back into the game and locked them down defensively, and gutted it out.”
Close was especially pleased with his team’s ability to play hard while ill.
“Half our team’s been battling sickness,” he said. “We weren’t sure who’d be able to play and be in today, so I’m proud of the kids who sucked it up and put some minutes in. It was an ugly game, because of that. We just had to gut it out.”
Stow senior Matt Beech scored a game-high 17 points, including six points in the third quarter to keep the Bulldogs within striking distance as East surged. Zavodnik had 16 points and Williams 10 points.
Despite the physical nature of the game, Stow’s personal fouls could be counted on one hand. After several scrums for the ball without a foul called, often with East losing possession, and other close calls leaving either Close or Fiorello scratching their heads, Fiorello wasn’t pleased.
“Regardless of what happened, and you can quote me on this, this was a lousy officiated game,” he said. “Take away nothing from Stow — Stow’s a nice team and [the officials] are not why we lost. But those guys [the officials] had an attitude tonight.”
All but two of East’s points came from four scorers. Lewis and Ray led the way with 12 points each.
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.