Shaw's jumper leads Falls boys hoops team past Stow

by Frank Aceto Associate sports editor Published:

Stow -- Jake Steuer broke Cuyahoga Falls' heart more than a decade ago.

Two years later, Kendrick Watson left the Black Tigers feeling gloomy.

When it comes to dramatic endings, the Stow-Munroe Falls boys basketball team had a knack for ruining its archrival's evening.

Not anymore.

Thanks to Henry Shaw's foul-line jumper with 2.8 seconds left, Falls escaped with a 35-34 victory over the Bulldogs Dec. 14 at Stow-Munroe Falls High School's James G. Tyree Gymnasium.

Unfortunately for Falls, the joy was short-lived, as the Black Tigers lost 72-60 at home to Hudson Dec. 18.

When the 6-foot-3 Shaw got the ball, he was looking for his teammate, 6-foot-7 Angelo Cugini. But Stow's defense took Cugini out of the equation and Shaw had to quickly make a move.

"I went up to set a back screen for Ang and I got the ball," Shaw said. "I was looking for him, knowing that he could get the ball and make it. They were doubling him. I noticed there were three seconds left and I had to get the ball up."

Black Tigers' fans were certainly glad he did.

After taking a couple of dribbles to his left, Shaw's shot found nothing but net.

Initially, the clock ran out when Shaw's shot fell through the hoop. But the officials had a brief conference and decided to put 2.8 seconds left on the clock.

The Bulldogs called time-out and had to go the length of the court to win or tie it.

Bryan Ritchie's inbounds pass found forward Colton Short, who took a dribble and heaved the ball near half court. The ball hit high off the backboard and fell harmlessly to the floor as time expired.

"This is a very hard place to walk out of with a win," Falls head coach Rob Slone said. "This group of kids we have does not know how to quit."

It was only the third time the Black Tigers beat Stow in the last 13 years. The last time Falls prevailed over its archrival was Feb. 10, 2009 when the Black Tigers scored a 47-44 home win. That victory was Slone's first win against the Bulldogs as Falls coach.

When was the last time the Black Tigers prevailed in Stow?

Let's just say Falls' assistant coach Kenny Johnson was still wearing a black and gold tank top.

Johnson, a senior at the time, helped the Black Tigers post a 53-47 victory over the Bulldogs in Stow. That was the two teams' final regular-season game in 1996 and it gave Falls the Metro Division title.

While the Black Tigers' latest win over the Bulldogs may not have as much luster as the '96 win, it was still sweet nonetheless.

"It's the greatest feeling in the world," Shaw said.

Shaw finished with nine points, but he was not the first option on the play.

"Henry is not an offensive-minded child," Slone said. "When he caught the ball, you could see the little squirrels rolling in his brain, looking for Angelo inside.

"We stressed at halftime to pound the ball inside. He kept looking inside and you could see he was like, 'OK, I've got to shoot it.'"

Shaw's game-winner wasn't the only dramatic play to take place down the stretch. Falls rallied from a 34-29 deficit with 46 seconds left.

Devin Speicher made 1-of-2 free throws to cut Stow's lead to 34-30 with 42.3 seconds left.

"That's when it started," Stow head coach Dave Close said. "We let Speicher drive in the middle of the floor and we fouled him. If we don't foul him, the clock doesn't stop even if they score."

It only got worse for the Bulldogs.

Matt Lawrence tipped a Stow pass that went into the hands of teammate Jacob Slone.

After the turnover, the Bulldogs (2-3, 0-1) eventually fouled Matt Lawrence, who made the first foul shot to cut Stow's advantage to 34-31 with 29.2 ticks left.

Lawrence missed the second foul shot, but Speicher came out of nowhere to get the offensive rebound and finish with a layup. Speicher's score trimmed Stow's lead to 34-33.

The Bulldogs missed the front end of a one and one with 18.7 seconds left and Falls got the rebound.

The Black Tigers, who also won the freshman and junior varsity contests, got the ball past half court before calling time-out. Shaw did the rest to complete Falls' improbable comeback.

Yes, the game had plenty of theatrics in the final minute.

But neither team appeared to be in midseason form throughout the evening.

Both teams struggled mightily to put the ball in the basket and neither squad looked particularly sharp in terms of execution.

"We set the game of basketball back about 20 years," Slone joked.

Stow led most of the first half and the fourth quarter, but the third quarter proved critical to the Black Tigers' hopes.

Falls outscored the Bulldogs 9-3 in the period to take a 23-22 lead. Actually, Cugini outscored Stow all by himself.

Cugini, who wasn't much of factor in the first 16 minutes, took over in the third. He did most of his damage in the paint despite seeing plenty of maroon and gold jerseys around him.

Cugini also was nearly automatic at the foul line. He canned 7-of-8 free throws and finished with team-highs in points (13) and rebounds (nine).

"My coaches told me to grow up and be a man," Cugini said. "Coach [Rick] Blevins and coach Slone always challenge me. That woke me up."

Although the Black Tigers made the crucial plays down the stretch, Stow's Matt Beech did the most damage offensively.

Despite being surrounded by taller Falls' players, Beech finished with 18 points and six rebounds. If he wasn't posting up, Beech was draining perimeter shots. He knocked down a trio of three-pointers for the Bulldogs. Jacob Williams added nine points for Stow.

As for Cugini, a transfer from St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, he might have had some mixed feelings before the game. The Silver Lake resident grew up in Stow.

"I came out of Stow in the eighth grade," Cugini said. "I love Stow, but Falls is my team and that is my family."

The Black Tigers were scheduled to host Tallmadge Dec. 22. Results were not available at press time. They are set to entertain Green Dec. 28 at 1 p.m.

Email: faceto@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9444

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