By ERIC CLUTTER | CORRESPONDENT
During Dave Close's successful tenure as coach of the Stow Bulldogs boys basketball team, defense and rebounding have always been staples of his team.
Thursday night against neighboring Kent Roosevelt, Close's squad completely throttled the young Rough Riders' offense while dominating the boards to the tune of 35-11. It all added up to a 60-36 non-league victory for the Bulldogs, who posted their third win in a row.
"Stow makes you look -- their defense makes you look -- like you have never played together," said Roosevelt coach Ben Dunlap, whose young squad was coming off a season-high 73 points in a win over Ravenna last Friday. "That's what we want to do. Unfortunately, we're not there yet."
Behind 10 points from 6-foot-2 junior Matt Beech and a 10-3 rebounding edge, the Bulldogs (5-3) were able to establish an early inside game and eight-point lead after one quarter.
"He's a bull in a China shop," said Close. "He just goes hard and has tremendous body control. He gets around people very effectively, very tenacious."
Beech finished with a game-high 20 points and his success in the paint ultimately opened up the perimeter for junior guard Mike Zavodnik, who drained four 3-pointers en route to a 14-point evening.
"The kids executed very nicely early as far as moving the ball around," said Close. "When they adjusted to Beech, then the guards stepped up and made some shots.
"We made some decent plays against their pressure a little bit. We need to clean that up a little more. In all, we handled their full-court pressure and found the open people. That's what you want to do."
Even though Roosevelt (3-3) closed the first half on a 6-2 run to trail at the half by only eight points, and then capped the third stanza with an 8-2 flurry to trim a 16-point deficit to 10, Stow was never really in danger thanks to its work on the boards, which left the Rough Riders one shot and done.
"We're not very big -- my post guys are 6-1, 6-2 -- but our kids block out very, very hard," said Close. "They go get the ball. That's a toughness thing, and our kids are pretty tough."
The Bulldogs sealed the fate of the Rough Riders by reeling off the first 10 tallies of the final quarter while holding the hosts scoreless until only 2:07 remained to be played.
Corey Mitchell, Myles Wright and Joe Watts each had 10 points to pace the Rough Riders, but the offense was never able to get in any flow against the always-stingy Stow defense.
According to Dunlap, the Rough Riders only turned the ball over seven times. Normally a positive, that stat only made his team's modest output more perplexing.
"That has to be a record," he said. "I don't know if a team ever has had fewer turnovers and lost the game by 24 points. I thought our shot selection was questionable, to say the least. I thought we played very undisciplined tonight. They (Stow) got their shots where they wanted to go, and we didn't get our shots where we needed them to be. When you play like that, you are going to get hot for a minute and go on a run, and then go 10 minutes without scoring."