Barberton: Stow basketball coach Dave Close said it felt like Christmas morning when he heard senior standout David Walker was cleared to play.
Walker, a 6-foot-6 Northeastern University recruit, returned to the court for the first time in five weeks Friday night at Barberton after breaking his left wrist Dec. 16.
Walker made an immediate impact, and the Bulldogs beat the Magics 61-53.
After the game, Close emerged from the locker room not totally happy.
“It is always good to win because this is a tough place to play,” Close said. “I just wasn’t pleased with our performance on either end of the floor. Defensively, we were out of position a lot. They got a lot of penetration on us, and for some reason, we thought we were a shot-blocking team. . . . Offensively, we were not very aggressive. We got a little passive out there. We missed some opportunities to score.”
Walker, wearing a flexible gel brace, led all scorers with 18 points.
“It’s good to have him back,” Close said. “I think all of the kids are excited to have him back. In some ways, that may have been a distraction. It was more about David being back then, ‘Hey, let’s go battle and win a game.’ I just don’t think we competed as well as we could have. I think the buzz of the week was, ‘Hey, David’s back,’ instead of ‘Hey, let’s get ready for Barberton.’ It is probably a natural thing for kids, and to be honest, I was thrilled to death. I told David it was like Christmas morning when I got the text he was cleared.”
Walker, a right-handed player, started the game and made three 3-pointers and had six rebounds and three assists.
“Since it’s my senior year, you want to be out there to play,” Walker said. “I only got one year left [of high school] and then, fortunately, four years of college. Still, watching the guys out there playing and having fun, that really can aggravate you.”
Walker made two 3-pointers in the first quarter to help Stow build a 14-10 lead.
“It was a lot of fun to be back,” Walker said. “This is like my love. I have been playing since I was little. Being back out there with the team was awesome.”
The Bulldogs (9-3) led the Magics (9-4) 28-22 at halftime.
Stow senior Kyle Scelza made two 3-pointers in the second quarter. He scored 10 points and had six rebounds.
“I thought that the big part of the game was the very beginning,” Barberton coach Ken Rector said. “We had some bunnies [that we missed] within the first couple of minutes, and it seemed like it was 5-1 or something like that forever. If we are making those layups and we get a lead on them, I think the whole momentum and the game changes.”
Stow, which never trailed, led 42-31 after three quarters.
Senior Eric Hummel paced Barberton with 15 points. Junior Scott Sabol and freshman Joshua Williams had 14 points and 13 points, respectively.
Stow sophomore Matt Beech hustled his way to 12 points in the paint.
“I do the dirty work, but when Davey left, I had to step up my scoring,” Beech said. “I just tried to keep it up tonight and it worked out good.”
Senior Mike Waggoner scored nine points and junior Tyler DeVitis contributed eight points.