Tim Rogers

STOW: Nothing like an efficient, no-nonsense, wire-to-wire victory to kick off the postseason, especially given previous encounters.

That had to be running through the mind of Stow coach Dave Close on Wednesday as he watched his fifth-seeded team get the postseason off to a satisfying start with a 68-51 victory over 10th-seeded Wadsworth in a Division I sectional semifinal in Tyree Gymnasium.

The game was significantly different than the last meeting between the two Suburban League members, when Stow won a 42-35 nail-biter on Jan. 22 en route to sweeping the season series.

“I thought we played hard, I thought we played well,” said Close, whose team improved to 18-5. “I thought we moved the ball well. I didn’t want to settle for shooting a bunch of 3-pointers. Defensively, I felt we had to guard them so tight they wouldn’t be able to get a shot off and I thought we did that.”

The victory sets up the third showdown between Stow and Hudson on Saturday in a sectional final at Hudson. Hudson, which took a bye in the first round, is 17-5. The two split the season series. It should be a dandy. It usually is.

The Bulldogs got off to an early lead only to have the young (read inexperienced) Grizzlies (5-18) rally to tie the game at 13-13 with about one minute left in the first quarter. From that point on, it was all Stow.

Senior Logan Huffman scored a season-high 19 points and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds to lead the Bulldogs. Senior guard Nathan Bower-Malone, the team’s leading scorer during the season, finished with 13 points and seven rebounds and sophomore guard Coryon Rice came off the bench to score nine points and get five rebounds.

But, it was a night in which every player contributed. Junior Logan Wright, the son of Hudson football coach Ron Wright, scored six of his eight points in the second half. Fellow juniors Logan Lindsay and Nick Kollar each scored six points and Justin Harvey had five.

After scoring the final five points to close the first quarter, the Bulldogs opened the second by scoring the first six to build a 33-21 lead. Huffman scored five points and Rice added four, including a nifty, twisting underhand layup that kissed softly high off the backboard.

Wadsworth started three sophomores and two seniors and three more sophomores came off the bench.

Close said he was concerned about his team looking ahead to Hudson and realized the dangers, given the last meeting with Wadsworth.

“That team has improved greatly through the course of the season,” said Close. “We were concerned with their shooting ability. You look at a 20-point win and you think it was easy. It was not. We had to work hard. We had to rebound. We had to be efficient and handle the ball.

“I was as hard on them this week in practice as I have been all season. The first time I even mentioned Hudson was about 10 minutes ago.”

Stow responded, especially on the backboards. It outrebounded the Grizzlies 34-16. It also made 17-of-19 free throws to 4-of-7 for Wadsworth. Most of Wadsworth’s points came on 11 3-pointers.

Sophomore guard Tony Hewitt led the Grizzlies with 13 points and Jake Justice came off the bench to score 12, all on 3-point shots.

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