By RICK NOLAND
Assistant Sports Editor
COPLEY â€” Goliath got the better of David this time, but it was far from easy.
Dominating inside, a bigger and stronger Stow team downed hot-shooting Wadsworth 60-56 in overtime Thursday in a thrilling Copley Division I District semifinal boys basketball game.
The seventh-seeded Bulldogs (13-9), who will meet Akron Firestone for the district title Saturday at 7 p.m., got 23 points and 11 rebounds from bulky 6-foot-5 center Renden Peery and 13 points and 14 boards from 6-3 power forward Nevin Nettey.
The 10th-seeded Grizzlies (10-13), who reached the district level for the second straight season, got 18 points on six 3-pointers from shooting guard Joe Goddard and 17 points and four threes from point guard Alan Sheppard, but the difference in the game was their inability to stop Peery inside.
The senior, who sat out the rest of Stowâ€™s sectional final win after aggravating a foot injury in the opening quarter, was scoreless in the first period against Wadsworth, but wound up hitting 11-of-14 shots. Sixteen of his points came after intermission, including six in overtime.
â€œWhen weâ€™re 5-11 or 6-1 and he outweighs us by 75 pounds, it seems like Shaquille Oâ€™Neal,â€ Wadsworth coach Scott Callaghan said. â€œHe really played to his potential.â€
When Peery wasnâ€™t scoring, Nettey often was, with almost all of both playersâ€™ buckets coming off simple entry passes from point guard Jeff Steiger, who finished with 14 assists.
â€œItâ€™s scary when youâ€™re going two (points) against three,â€ Stow coach Dave Close said after watching the Grizzlies make a sizzling 10-of-17 from behind the arc. â€œYouâ€™re almost tempted to match them three for three, but our game plan was to pound it inside.â€
Despite their lack of size, the Grizzlies led almost the entire game, only to have the Bulldogs forge a 50-50 tie on a bucket by Nettey with 1:29 remaining in regulation.
Wadsworth had several chances to go back ahead, but Chad Baughman missed two free throws with 43.7 seconds left and power forward Anthony Schrock (12 points) turned the ball over while attempting to drive in the closing seconds.
Stow never trailed in overtime, but the Grizzlies tied the contest at 54 on a rare four-point play by Sheppard with 58 seconds to go.
Peery, however, scored his third straight bucket inside and Steiger made four free throws to keep Wadsworth at bay.
â€œWe always have to do the little things right in order to win,â€ Callaghan said. â€œHad we made our free throws (Wadsworth missed four of its last five), we would have put a little more pressure on them to get out of what they wanted to do, but thatâ€™s tournament basketball.â€
The game was extremely well played by both teams, as Wadsworth committed just eight turnovers on the night, including one in the first half. The biggest lead of the night was seven by the Grizzlies in the first half.
Wadsworth wound up 19-of-39 from the field (.487), but Stow went an even better 24-of-44 (.545). The Bulldogsâ€™ Steve Bednar did make three 3-pointers en route to 12 points, but most of Stowâ€™s field goals came in the paint.
â€œI give them a lot of credit,â€ Callaghan said. â€œThey obviously knew our weakness and they did a wonderful job of finding our soft spot.
â€œSize, strength and athleticism won out.â€
The Grizzlies answered with long-range bombs, with Goddard going a remarkable 6-of-8 from behind the arc in the first half but attempting just one shot after intermission.
Sheppard took over at that point, as he scored 14 points after halftime as Wadsworth pushed Stow to the limit.
â€œIt was very fulfilling,â€ Callaghan said of his teamâ€™s tournament run. â€œIt was a credit to the kids in our program and all the character they have.â€
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, won on what would have been the birthday of Closeâ€™s father, who died in November.
â€œI just thanked the guys,â€ Close said after exchanging tearful hugs with his wife and mother. â€œIt was an event my dad would have been proud of â€” and he would have been proud of it whether we had won or lost.â€
Noland may be reached at email@example.com or 330-721-4061.