They suffered two consecutive upset losses to destroy all hopes of defending their Suburban League National Conference title. And then they have one of their worst shooting performances of the season in a hostile environment.
Yes, life hasn’t been particularly dandy for the Bulldogs.
However, the members of the Stow boys basketball team have at least one thing going for them — they still own their archrivals.
Despite a woeful shooting night, particularly from the free-throw line, the Bulldogs survived a slugfest with host Cuyahoga Falls en route to a 39-33 victory. Stow (10-10, 8-5) made just 13-of-31 foul shots and was coming off back-to-back losses to National Conference foes Hudson and Wadsworth.
In other words, life has been a bit chaotic for the normally systematic Bulldogs.
“We survived as poor of a shooting night as we possibly could,” Stow coach Dave Close said. “How many layups did we miss? There were some wide-open layups.”
Senior 6-foot-10 forward Evan Bainbridge, who struggled with his shot for most of the night, led Stow with 14 points. Senior guard Jack Wilson added 11 points for the Bulldogs.
Of course, the Black Tigers probably weren’t terribly interested in Stow’s struggles of late. Cuyahoga Falls (2-17, 0-13) entered the game just three days after defeating North for its first win in 76 days.
And, just as in their last game with the Bulldogs, the Black Tigers had every opportunity to finally top their nemesis. But a two-point fourth quarter doomed all hopes for the school that has been snakebitten by long stretches of futility in recent years.
This one, though, was extremely hard to take for Falls’ beleaguered players.
“I thought we were the better team [Friday],” Black Tigers coach Ken Johnson said. “We outplayed them. I thought we played harder.”
Johnson could have made that same case last month when his team entered the fourth quarter against Stow with a one-point lead, only to watch the Bulldogs pull away for a 65-52 win.
On Friday, Falls experienced déjà vu all over again.
After trailing by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, a 3-pointer by freshman guard Deon Horn (14 points) in the final seconds gave the Black Tigers a 31-28 lead.
“I think it was Deon’s coming-out party,” Johnson said. “When times got tough, he was able to hit some big shots for us. He didn’t shy away from the big moment. As a freshman, that’s pretty neat to see.”
But the Black Tigers couldn’t stop the Bulldogs’ free-throw exhibition that ensued.
Stow attempted 19 foul shots, including four technical free throws in the final eight minutes. Although the Bulldogs made just nine of those attempts, it was more than enough to hold off Falls, which took just six shots in the final quarter.
“We’re just trying to get better every day,” Close said.