KENT: Senior forward Matt Beech’s inside presence and Stow’s stingy defense lifted the Bulldogs over host Kent Roosevelt 60-36 Thursday night.
Beech scored 18 points, including six of the first eight points Stow scored, and had 10 in the first quarter thanks to a couple of nice passes into the paint. Beech, listed at 6-foot-2, isn’t very tall but was able to muscle his way under the basket and put the game out of the Rough Riders’ reach early on.
“He’s a bull in a china shop,” Stow coach Dave Close said. “He goes hard. He has tremendous body control when he’s around the basket. He’s very tenacious.”
Beech’s damage was limited in the second half after he was called for his fourth foul and had to leave the game. By then, Stow (5-3) had extended a 42-32 lead after three quarters to 53-32 on an 11-0 run to open the fourth quarter.
Roosevelt coach Ben Dunlap and his staff had prepared for Beech.
“We knew he was going to be a handful inside,” Dunlap said. “They run a nice offensive system. Coach [Close] does a great job with them and their players, to give them credit, [they] run it to a T. They’re very unselfish, they knew where the ball needs to go and they got it there.”
As Roosevelt (3-3) defenders drifted inside to deny Beech the ball, junior Mike Zavodnik made the Rough Riders pay by making four 3-pointers and scoring 14 points. Using Beech’s presence inside as a decoy and a couple of strong screens, Zavodnik had plenty of time to wind up.
“When they adjusted to Beech then the guards stepped up and made some shots,” Close said. “Anytime you can mix that up, it’s going to be a good thing. They made some adjustments to Matt that opened some perimeter guys. Our kids found those guys and made some shots.”
Stow outrebounded Roosevelt 30-9 despite a noticeable height disadvantage. The Bulldogs use strength and will rather than height, traits that Close values.
“We’re not very big — my post guys are 6-1, 6-2 — but our kids block out very, very hard and they go get the ball,” he said. “I’m real proud of that. It’s a toughness thing, and our kids are pretty tough.”
Except for an 8-0 run near the end of the third quarter that cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 40-32, the Rough Riders’ offense never clicked the way Dunlap had drawn it up. Roosevelt, though, was clean and only turned the ball over seven times. There just wasn’t any space.
“That’s gotta be a record. I don’t know that a team’s ever had fewer turnovers and lost by 24 points,” Dunlap said. “I thought our shot selection was questionable to say the least. I thought we played very undisciplined tonight.
“Our inexperience, our youth — we’re going to have games like this. Stow, their defense, makes you look like you’ve never played together. That’s what we want to do and unfortunately we’re not there yet.”
Roosevelt was led by a trio of scorers — senior Corey Mitchell, sophomore Joseph Watts and junior Myles Wright — who all finished with 10 points.
It was the third win in a row for Stow, but Close isn’t putting any stock in anything past the next game.
“It’s one at a time,” he said. “You don’t get wrapped up in runs or things like that, you just want to get better each time out. You want to improve. We’re a young team but the season’s a third over. We’re not young anymore.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.