STOW: Stow seniors Matthew Beech and Jacob Williams each had high scoring nights, and the more experienced Bulldogs cruised past Firestone 69-44 in the semifinal round of the Stow Holiday Classic on Friday night.
Beech finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, two steals and an assist. That included the first eight points of the game in which Beech followed a missed layup with a 3-pointer, a made layup and another 3-pointer to open up an 8-0 Stow lead within the first two minutes. At the end of the first quarter, Beech had outscored Firestone by himself (8-7) and if not for a late Falcons’ 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, would have tied Firestone with 16 points in the first half.
Williams added 18 points and provided much of the second-half scoring that disallowed a Firestone comeback.
He also had six rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Beech dominated the ball offensively in the first half and Williams took over in the second half. That divide wasn’t entirely by design, but Williams and Beech are each putting up high scoring numbers night after night as equal threats.
“I’d say they’re co-scoring threats,” Stow coach Dave Close said. “They’re both versatile. They both can put it on the floor, they can both hit jump shots. They’re really good when they can do that and find open people.”
Behind Beech and Williams, and along with senior guard Nathan Bower-Malone (nine points, four rebounds) running the offense, Stow (6-2) operated like an experienced team playing in March while Firestone (5-2) struggled to find a rhythm. The Bulldogs led 22-7 after the first quarter and 43-19 at halftime, as they put the Falcons away early.
“I was really pleased with how we moved the basketball, shared the basketball, found the open guy,” Close said. “My gosh, we shot the heck out of the ball early in the game. The first 14 minutes was as good of offense as we’ve played all year.”
Close credited the experience the Bulldogs gained last season (three triple-overtime games) along with returning all of its key pieces this season, with the smooth start to the season.
“Every guy we put on the floor, the top six, played last year,” Close said. “Matt and Jacob have been on varsity since they were freshmen. They’ve been in a lot of situations with us. It’s certainly nice to have that experience to fall back on.”
Firestone was led by senior Evan Kennerly, who finished with a game-high 22 points, much of it coming in the second half. Senior Jae’Quan Jones added eight points, five rebounds and three steals. Sophomore Raybon Lewis had six points, six rebounds and two blocks.
Stow will host Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, which beat Nordonia 52-45 Friday afternoon, in the Holiday Classic final at 7 tonight.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.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.