STOW — Copley senior guard DJ Jones remembers the blowout loss last year when the Indians faced Stow.
Immediately following Copley’s 62-54 win over the Bulldogs on Thursday, Jones was pretty transparent about the revenge on his mind. His team-high 17 points lifted the Indians (6-2, 2-1 Suburban League American Conference) when they needed it most, and he received help from seniors Samuel Emich and VannAubrey Thomas, who scored 16 and 14 points, respectively.
They were all there when Stow beat Copley by 39 points last February. Coach Mark Dente downplayed the revenge and raised valid points: The Indians later eliminated the Bulldogs in a district semifinal, and these are two different teams from last season. But Jones couldn’t deny he thought about the lopsided loss anyway.
“We just wanted to win so bad,” Jones said. “They beat us last year by 40, so we had to come back and get it. I wanted it so bad.”
The Bulldogs (2-5, 2-2 Suburban League National Conference) exited the first quarter with a 13-10 lead, in large part thanks to senior Evan Bainbridge.
Bainbridge — a Kent State recruit who averages 18 points per game — led all scorers with 19 points, 10 of which came in the first quarter. As early as the first possession, he was paving the way on both ends of the floor for Stow. After blocking an Indians shot, he scored the game’s first points on the other end. At 6-foot-10, he initially made everything inside the paint look easy and even made two 3-pointers.
But the Indians silenced Bainbridge in the next two quarters. Emich picked up a few early fouls guarding Bainbridge, so Dente moved sophomore forward A.J. Campbell over to defend Bainbridge. After his explosive first quarter, Bainbridge managed just two points in the middle two quarters. He did break free for nine points in the final quarter, including an electric put-back dunk. He also finished with a game-high nine rebounds. Senior guard Jack Wilson added 11 points, but Bainbridge was the focal point of Stow’s offense.
“He was obviously a focus for us, but he’s good,” Dente said. “He’s a Division I basketball player. I thought we really controlled him pretty well the rest of the game.”
It wasn’t just holding Bainbridge that went right for the Indians in the second quarter. They opened with a 7-0 run, scoring twice on Stow turnovers. Leading by 10 nearing the end of the half, the Indians forced the Bulldogs into a backcourt violation and subsequently were able drain more than a minute off the clock. The Bulldogs did manage a 3-pointer by sophomore reserve guard Jack Costa, but much of the damage had already been done.
“We denied kids the ball [on defense],” Dente said. “They can’t score if they can’t catch the ball. They run that high-flare [screen] for the three to Bainbridge a lot, and I think we did a good job covering that after the first few minutes of the game.”
Much of the same continued through the second half. Even when Stow made things interesting by cutting Copley’s lead to seven points in the third quarter, Emich drilled a 3-pointer as the period expired. The Bulldogs again cut it to single digits near the end of the fourth quarter, cutting their deficit to six points with just under two minutes to play. But Stow ran out of time, and Jones scored on an acrobatic reverse layup to essentially seal the game for the Indians.