COPLEY TWP. — At the very least, the Cloverleaf boys basketball team proved Stow isn’t invincible Tuesday.
To the surprise of no one, the top-seeded Bulldogs won the Copley Division I Sectional semifinal 68-36 and advance to face Highland on Friday. To the surprise of everyone, the 12th-seeded Colts made the district favorites sweat for a half.
Behind an intricate game plan that featured a different defense on nearly every possession, Cloverleaf (1-19) led 26-22 with 2:09 remaining the second quarter, only to watch Stow (17-4) explode and score 46 of the game’s final 56 points.
“I told the kids at halftime, ‘A lot of people walked into this gym and gained some respect for Cloverleaf basketball,”’ said Brown, who announced his resignation after the game. “We could have walked in here as the last seed and played like it. I don’t think we did. The final score isn’t indicative of how we played tonight.”
The final score certainly wasn’t indicative of the first 16 minutes.
The Colts, who will enter next season with a new coach and 14-game losing streak, made it a priority to give different defensive looks to 6-foot-6 Stow point guard David Walker (28 points, 5 assists) and shooting guard Kyle Scelza (11 points, 4 assists).
It worked for awhile using a triangle-and-two and straight man-to-man, among other things. At times, Scelza alone was face-guarded. At others, Walker was trapped whenever he had the ball.
Offensively, the Colts still managed to get good shots despite Walker shutting down leading scorer Robby Buckwald (4 points, 1-of-6 shooting) with his impressive length. Senior point guard Zack Miglich played the best half of his career with 12 points, three rebounds, three steals and a block — “We couldn’t take him off the floor,” Brown raved — and junior center J.D. Schleich (8 points) gave Cloverleaf a 24-18 lead three minutes left in the half.
The magic finally ran out after Clifford Collyer put the Colts up 26-22 just 51 seconds later.
“We proved the whole season we should have really been better than we were,” said Miglich, whose team lost nine games by single digits. “We brought it together today and played more as a team. Even though Stow is No. 1 in our district and we’re 12th, we still proved we could hang with anybody.”
That held true Tuesday until Stow coach David Close moved Walker off the point and inserted backup Tyler DeVitis to run the show.
DeVitis (6 assists in the second half) playing lead guard allowed the Bulldogs to run Scelza and Walker off a plethora of screens. Scelza and Walker then erupted for a combined 25 points over the final 16 minutes on 10-of-16 shooting.
Undersized center Matt Beech was the main beneficiary of Scelza and Walker attacking the basket and scored 23 points on either layups or at the free throw line.
“We threw the kitchen sink at them and they still scored,” Brown said. “They’re that good.”
“I’m just proud,” he added. “We could’ve just walked in here, did whatever and played like the last seed and get (the season) over with. Our kids played so loose and carefree.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.