Stow -- They had far more experience.
They were a little more athletic and considerably bigger in the low post.
And they had the psychological edge after earning a Dec. 14 win in a gymnasium that has stymied them for what seemed like an eternity.
In the end, none of that meant anything.
The Black Tigers still haven't mastered their archrivals.
The Stow-Munroe Falls boys basketball team earned a heart-stopping 58-57 triple-overtime victory over host Cuyahoga Falls Feb. 5.
With the win, the Bulldogs, winners of three straight as of press time, improved to 9-9 overall and 2-4 in the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division. The Black Tigers fell to 11-6 overall and 2-3 in the River Division.
When these two teams met Dec. 14 in Stow, Falls rallied to beat the Bulldogs 35-34 on Henry Shaw's game-winning jumper in the final seconds.
As fate would have it, the 6-foot-3 Shaw had a chance to break the Bulldogs' hearts for the second time in less than two months.
But it wasn't meant to be.
Shaw's final shot from close range rolled off the rim and the ensuing tip didn't go through the cylinder as time expired. As a result, the Black Tigers, who have beaten Stow just three times in the last 13 years, settled for a split with their archrivals.
The Bulldogs prevailed despite not having their leading scorer, forward Matt Beech, for most of the evening.
Although Beech scored 13 points, he missed a large chunk of the game because of foul trouble. He was a not much of a factor after regulation because he fouled out with 2 minutes, 3 seconds remaining in the first overtime period.
"I'm really proud of our kids," longtime Stow head coach Dave Close said. "Matt Beech is a big part of our offense. A lot of our stuff goes through him and he has been carrying the load all season. To their credit, the other guys made some plays."
Guard Jacob Williams sure did.
He forced overtime when he knocked down two pressure-packed free throws to tie the game with .9 of a second left.
Williams wasn't done.
After receiving a pass from point guard Tyler DeVitis on the right side of the court, Williams' three-pointer touched nothing but net to give the Bulldogs a 58-57 lead with 11.4 left.
It was a sweet case of redemption for Williams.
He missed a front end of a one-and-one opportunity prior to Shaw's game-winner back in December.
Both teams had chances to seal the deal prior to the third overtime period.
Stow had a 52-50 lead in the first overtime, but Falls' guard Josh Ricker tied the game with two clutch free throws of his own with .2 left.
Ricker had a chance to win the game in the second overtime.
Trailing 55-54 with .4 remaining, Ricker had two foul shots. He made 1-of-2.
Prior to Williams' game-winning bucket, the Bulldogs got a crucial offensive rebound to keep the possession alive.
"That has happened to us all year," Black Tigers head coach Rob Slone said. "We don't seem to come up with the loose balls. That led to the wide-open three."
Falls appeared to have the game in hand in the third quarter.
Thanks to their pressure and ability to trap Stow's ball-handlers in the corners, the Black Tigers forced several turnovers and built a 28-16 lead when guard Matt Lawrence converted a layup with 3:28 left in the period.
The Bulldogs rallied in methodical fashion and Beech gave Stow its first lead (44-43) of the second half when he knocked down 1-of-2 free throws 11 seconds into the first overtime.
Back and forth the game went as both teams played a little game of "can you top this."
Prior to Ricker's free throws in the final seconds of the second overtime, Freshman guard Nathan Bower-Malone buried a three-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 52-50 advantage with 6.4 ticks left.
"I talk to my kids about wanting things," Slone said. "They wanted it more than we did."
Beech's absence from the floor created other problems.
He was the guy guarding Falls' standout 6-foot-7 forward Angelo Cugini, who scored 13 points in the previous meeting between the two teams.
Despite giving up several inches, Ritchie held Cugini in check down the stretch. Cugini finished with eight points.
"They had a 6-foot-1, 175-pound kid guarding my 6-7 kid and he basically shut him down for three quarters," Slone said.
Ritchie, who had six points and nine rebounds, has been Stow's unsung hero throughout the season, according to Close.
Shaw was the most productive offensive player on the floor. He finished with a game-high 20 points. Ricker added 16 for the Black Tigers, who made 17-of-24 foul shots.
Williams led the Bulldogs with 14 points and Bower-Malone added 12 points off the bench. Stow converted 8-of-13 free throws and had a 27-21 edge on the glass.
Falls has ran its share of marathons in recent days.
On Feb. 1, the host Black Tigers experienced yet another triple-overtime thriller when they scored an 85-81 victory over NOC foe North Royalton (14-2).
Five players scored in double digits for Falls.
Ricker led the way with 21 points and Cugini and guard Devin Speicher added 17 and 16 points, respectively. Shaw (14) and Jay Slone (11) also fared well for the Black Tigers.
Omari Spellman led North Royalton with a game-high 24 points.
Falls was scheduled to visit River Division rival Hudson Feb. 8. Results were not available at press time.
The Black Tigers are set to host River Division foe Twinsburg Feb. 12 before heading to Solon for a River Division showdown Feb. 15. Both varsity contests are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.