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LIMA — The last time the St. Marys boys basketball team had won a sectional tournament game before Tuesday night, the players on the current Roughrider roster were in junior high and elementary school.
St. Marys put an end to that postseason drought, winning the program's first tournament game in five years with a 60-50 victory over Kenton in a Division II sectional semifinal at Lima Senior High School on Tuesday night.
"We're really happy with the win," St. Marys head coach Dan Hegemier said. "It's been a long time since St. Marys has had a tournament win."
The win is also St. Marys' third straight victory — the Roughriders' longest win streak of the season. St. Marys advances to take on Western Buckeye League co-champion and 19-win Bath on Friday night at 6:15 p.m. at Lima Senior High School. Bath breezed past Shawnee 75-55 in the first game on Tuesday.
St. Marys senior Garet Fledderjohann led the way with 24 points, breaking Kenton's second-half traps by scooting around them deftly and driving to the basket.
Fellow senior Austin James scored 15 points, nailing four 3-pointers to add to his school-record total of made treys.
St. Marys sophomore Quinn Zaerr added 10 points and eight rebounds when the Roughriders needed it most against a Kenton front line that included a pair of stout junior big men in 6-foot-5 Grant Sherman and 6-foot-4 Noah Furbush. That duo combined for 23 points and 21 rebounds in Kenton's 48-40 regular season win over the Riders back in December to start the WBL season.
"Quinn had been a little AWOL for a little while, but the last few weeks he's been doing a great job for us," Hegemier said.
Zaerr got help inside from senior Adam Neal who got the start in the post. Neal pulled down six rebounds while also sustaining an elbow from Furbush to the eye. Neal returned to the game.
"Even in practice the guy gets beat up," Hegemier said, laughing. "I've never seen a guy bleed so much the last week."
Kenton collected 14 offensive rebounds, but the smaller Riders held their own in the total rebounding total with Kenton holding a 33-27 advantage.
"We did a good job for the most part with the size we have and with the size they have, I was very satisfied," Hegemier said. "They've got some big, strong young men."
Furbush had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Sherman had three points and 12 rebounds while battling foul trouble.
St. Marys used a zone defense to clog up the paint and force the Wildcats to beat them from the perimeter. Kenton couldn't do it. The Wildcats missed their first 12 attempts from outside the 3-point arc and shot just 3-for-21 from long distance.
"We don't have enough depth at times to play man-to-man defense, so I'm playing a lot of different types of zones," Hegemier said. "It's stuff I hate doing, but it's what we have to do. We tried to junk things up as much as we can."
St. Marys' lead ballooned to a game-high 16 points in the opening minute of the second half on the heels of a 7-0-run. Nathan Wilker drove to the basket for two points, Quinn Zaerr buried a 3-pointer on the right wing and Fledderjohann hit two free throws to put the Riders up 28-12.
Kenton pared down that lead to five points midway through the fourth quarter, but the steadying ballhandling and around-the-rim finishes of Fledderjohann helped the Riders withstand the Kenton run.
St. Marys went 6-of-7 from the floor shooting in the fourth quarter to close things out.
St. Marys and Kenton both started off sluggishly. The Roughriders led 8-6 after eight minutes of play despite shooting just 3-for-14 from the floor in that first quarter.
"I thought Garet Fledderjohann and Austin James got a little impatient in the first quarter," Hegmier said. "Then Garet found out if he went to the hole, it was going to be a lot better."
Kenton dropped to 13-10 on the season. The Wildcats lost their final six games against Western Buckeye League teams after starting WBL play 2-1. Kenton doesn't have a senior listed on its varsity roster this season.
The Roughriders shot 42 percent from the floor on 19-of-45 shooting in a game they never trailed.
With the Riders up 13-12 midway through the second quarter Isaac Fitzgerald buried a 3-pointer, Fledderjohann made a basket, Adam Neal went 1-for-2 at the free throw line and Fledderjohann made another bucket to put the Riders up 21-12 with the 8-0 run to end the half.
Fitzgerald gave the Riders seven points off the bench.
Before Tuesday night's victory, St. Marys had last won a tournament game in February of 2008, when a two-win Roughrider team upended higher-seeded Elida 50-45.
With the win, St. Marys head coach Dan Hegemier moves to within three victories of the 500 for his coaching career.
Kenton went just 7-for-15 (46.7 percent) from the free throw line.