CUYAHOGA FALLS: The thrilling outcome of Tuesday’s Stow-Cuyahoga Falls boys basketball game was an emotional reversal of the first meeting.
The visiting Bulldogs (9-9), fueled by junior guard Jacob Williams sinking clutch free throws to tie it at the end of regulation and then a key 3-pointer in the third overtime, outlasted the rival Black Tigers 58-57.
Williams was thankful to redeem himself after his free-throw miss Dec. 14 in the first game left the door open for Cuyahoga Falls to win 35-34 at Stow.
That night, Black Tiger 6-foot-3 senior Henry Shaw made the game-winning shot and was the hero. This time, Shaw popped in a game-high 20 points, but was unable to convert two opportunities near the rim in the final seconds of the third overtime and Stow celebrated.
Stow was able to win despite junior standout Matt Beech being in foul trouble the entire game and playing limited minutes.
The burly 6-2 forward came into the game averaging 21.8 points in his past six games and accounted for 41 percent of Stow’s scoring during the stretch.
“He’s been carrying the load for us,” Stow coach Dave Close said. “Our kids stepped up. It wasn’t pretty.”
That effort by the Bulldogs, especially 6-1 junior Bryan Ritchie (six points, 12 rebounds), gave Stow a plus-10 margin on the boards and more than offset Cuyahoga Falls’ advantage in the turnover margin.
“We don’t seem to come up with that loose ball on a rebound very often,” Falls coach Rob Slone said. “There is no reason we should ever get outrebounded.”
At the end of regulation, with the score tied 41-41, Cuyahoga Falls (11-6), playing its third consecutive overtime game, took a 43-41 lead with 6.3 seconds left when senior guard Devin Speicher connected on a perfect right-to-left pass with Shaw for a layup.
It appeared Stow was going to turn it over on the ensuing possession, but on a broken play, Williams picked up the loose ball, drove the lane and was fouled with 0.9 of a second left. Williams made both pressure free throws to force overtime.
The first overtime ended with Stow freshman guard Nathan Bower sinking a 3-pointer with six seconds left, but Falls junior Joshua Ricker was fouled on a pull-up jumper attempt and managed to make both free throws with 0.2 left.
Stow led 55-54 at the end of the second overtime when the Black Tigers inbounded the ball along their baseline with 6.7 seconds to go.
Ricker was in trouble, but a hand-check foul enabled him to get to the line where he sank the second of two free throws with 0.4 left, pushing the game to a third overtime tied at 55-55.
Williams sank his decisive 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds left, to make it 58-57 and the Bulldogs survived the final flurry around the rim.
Williams had 14 points and Bower 12 for Stow. Ricker, who, like Ritchie, played through injury, finished with 16 points.
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