ALLIANCE: Stow’s defense stifled a powerful Lake offense, something few teams have been able to do this season, and the Bulldogs defeated the Blue Streaks 55-48 in a Division I district semifinal at Alliance High School on Monday night.

Stow (20-5) pushed the tempo and altered its defensive philosophy to limit Lake, regarded as a penetrating team capable of getting the ball to the post with ease. Stow, led by junior guards Samantha Shaver and Christina Vaughan and junior forward Meghan Preston, refused to allow Lake to find a rhythm, stepping behind screens and clogging the lane.

That defense, combined with a 3-point barrage late in the third quarter, allowed the Bulldogs to open up a 45-32 lead after three quarters that the Blue Streaks couldn’t overcome.

“[Stow’s] defense really kept us from doing some of the things we tried to do,” Lake coach Henry Cobb said. “They’re one of the few teams this year that have been able to do that to us. Give them credit, they played a great game.”

Stow led 27-25 midway through the third quarter. Junior Morgan Thompson then came off the bench and nailed three 3-pointers in a three-minute stretch. Already leading 39-32, Vaughan then hit back-to-back 3-pointers in rhythm to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 45-32.

“We’ve been a good shooting basketball team,” Stow coach Robert Podges said. “We started out this season strong and made some adjustments in our lineup but we’ve gotten through that and we’re playing our best basketball of the year right now.”

Vaughan and Shaver led Stow’s up-tempo style for much of the game and prevented Lake’s guards from driving the lane. Vaughan finished with 18 points, four assists and two steals and Shaver had 15 points, two assists and four steals.

“Those two have played together since they were in fourth grade,” Podges said. “They’re tremendous athletes and tough competitors.”

Thompson finished the game with 16 points and two rebounds.

Close to record

Lake finishes the season 20-4, one win short of the school record for wins in a season.

“We’re disappointed tonight but our senior ladies have accomplished many, many things in their four-year careers at Lake,” Cobb said. “In two or three years we’re going to look back and have fond memories.”

Senior forward Baylen Dyrlund led the Blue Streaks with 16 points, six rebounds and three steals. Senior guard Bree Libby senior guard Baylee Hymes added 10 and eight points, respectively.

Hymes and Libby led a late charge in an attempt to chip away at Stow’s lead. They each hit 3-pointers in the final three minutes, as did senior Andrea Maag. Lake cut Stow’s advantage down to 52-46 but with only 35 seconds left to play, it was too little, too late.

“Our kids battled till the end,” Cobb said. “Our kids had some chances, just couldn’t get a shot to fall here or there.”

Stow will play the winner of the Walsh Jesuit-Canton McKinley game in the district final Friday at Alliance. Walsh Jesuit knocked Stow out of the playoff tournament last season.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the high school blog at https://ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.