COLDWATER — Coldwater’s late baseline-to-baseline inbounding gamble appeared to end badly, and with a minute left in the game the St. Marys boys basketball team had momentum behind it.
The break turned out to last about a second.
St. Marys’ fourth-quarter comeback fell short in the final minute as Coldwater won its season-opener over the Roughriders 59-52 on Saturday night.
After St. Marys sophomore Isaac Fitzgerald made a runner to cut down what was once a 15-point fourth-quarter Coldwater lead down to 54-50, Coldwater’s Austin Bruns, who led the Cavaliers to a state title this fall as a quarterback, threw a perfect full-court heave down to Caleb Siefring at the other end of the floor. Siefring’s lay-up was blocked, bobbled and his ensuing shot drifted high and hit the strap supporting the backboard.
St. Marys head coach Dan Hegemier and the Roughrider bench leapt in the air, thinking they had the break they needed. Instead, the ball was ruled to have been deflected by a Rider.
“The kids battled back and it was a tough call down four,” Hegemier said. “We blocked the shot and the kid still shoots it and they give the ball to them. It’s what happens. But the kids battled back. They didn’t quit.”
Coldwater knocked down three of four field goals and Siefring added a press-broken lay-up to put the game away. The late flurry overcame St. Marys’ 22-point fourth quarter and a final eight minutes in which the Riders went 7-of-15 from the floor.
“The kids did what it took to win,” Coldwater head coach Mike Bruns said. “Their competitiveness, their energy came out there at the end. They’re used to winning. Whether their skills are there yet, that’s yet to be said for, but I felt like when things didn’t go our way in the second half we didn’t lose our composure.”
St. Marys dropped to 0-4 on the season. The Roughriders host New Bremen on Friday night at 6 p.m. and then travel to Marion Local on Saturday night.
Coldwater played its first game after postponing the first two games on its schedule following its run to the Division V football championship.
The Cavaliers won with energy, even if at times their play was ragged. The Cavs committed 17 turnovers and shot just 38 percent in the first quarter. But Hegemier thought Coldwater played well for how rushed its preseason was.
Coldwater drained three of six from behind the arc in the second quarter.
“I wish I could come out after one week of practice and drop five 3-pointers on a team in the first half,” Hegemier said. “Coldwater has good athletes and we had a rough start shooting the ball.”
Coldwater built a double-digit lead with a big third quarter run. After St. Marys’ Austin James hit a 3-pointer to draw St. Marys to within 29-28 in the third quarter before Coldwater went on a 10-0 run. Adam Klosterman scored on a three-point play, Mitch Schoenherr hit a putback basket, Mitch Heyne drained a 3-pointer and Schoenherr put in a bucket. The Roughriders suddenly found themselves down 39-28.
Coldwater led 41-30 after three quarters.
St. Marys began its comeback with eight straight points from senior guard Garet Fledderjohann. Fledderjohann scored a game-high 20 points. He knocked down eight of nine from the free throw line. Fledderjohann missed his first four shots of the game but heated up in the second half just as St. Marys started its comeback.
“Credit St. Marys because they stepped up defensively,” Bruns said. “They went into that zone and we hit a couple shots on them to get them out of it. And then they went back to man and they really came after us. Our ballhandlers got tested, and again our guys held their composure.”
Austin James added 13 points off the bench for the Roughriders. He hit three of six 3-point attempts, including two quick 3-pointers after he first came into the game.
Bruns scored a team-high 16 points and Mitch Schoenherr added 12 points for the Cavaliers.
Coldwater won the rebounding battle, 33-17, and the Cavaliers pulled down 12 offensive rebounds.
Coldwater (1-0) will host Van Wert tonight in a game that was postponed from Dec. 8.