STOW: Coach Rob Slone made an honest assessment after his Cuyahoga Falls boys basketball team waltzed out of Stow with a 35-34 victory Friday night.
“We set the game of basketball back about 20 years,” Slone said with a smile.
Slone was grinning because the Black Tigers defeated the Bulldogs for just the second time during his nine-year tenure after Falls 6-foot-3 senior Henry Shaw made a wide-open jumper from the free-throw line with 2.8 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
Stow attempted a shot from near half-court as time expired that hit off the backboard.
“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” Shaw said. “I will never forget this.”
Shaw finished with nine points in a game before which Stow dedicated its gymnasium to James G. Tyree, a Bulldogs legendary athletic director and coach.
Angelo Cugini, a 6-7 junior, led the Black Tigers (4-1, 1-0) to the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division win with 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Slone said the Black Tigers’ final play was designed for Cugini, but the Bulldogs’ (2-3, 0-1) defense forced Shaw into making the big 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, obviously, at halftime to pound the ball inside. He kept looking inside and you could see that like second nature, he was like: ‘OK, I gotta shoot it.’ ”
Shaw said he was thinking “just go in” as he released the ball and watched it approach the basket.
“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 was three seconds left and I had to get the ball up.”
Shaw’s heroics ruined an impressive night by Stow junior Matt Beech, who had 18 points, five rebounds and two steals. Junior Jacob Williams added nine points.
“[Stow coach Dave Close] and his staff do a great job preparing their kids to play,” Slone said. “They have a system that is very successful.
“This is a very hard place to walk out of with a win. This group of kids we have does not know how to quit.”
There were spurts in the game when each team defended well, but there were also spurts in which each team struggled to get into a flow offensively.
Stow led 8-7 after one quarter and 19-14 at halftime. Cugini outscored Stow by himself 9-3 in the third quarter to put Falls ahead 23-22 going into the fourth quarter.
Slone and assistant coach Ric Blevins gave Cugini words of encouragement at halftime.
“My coaches told me to grow up and be a man,” Cugini said.
“I came out and I had to grow up and be a man. My team was all behind me and it was a team victory. We had to keep pushing on, and we did. Coach Blevins and coach Slone always challenge me. That woke me up. I went on that scoring run because of the coaches.”
Cugini, a St Vincent-St. Mary transfer, formerly lived in Stow as a child. He now lives in Silver Lake, which feeds into Cuyahoga Falls High School.
“I came out of Stow in the eighth grade,” Cugini said. “I love Stow, but now I go with the Falls. That is my team and that is my family.”
Senior Devin Speicher and junior Jay Slone combined for 10 points for Falls.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.