ST. MARYS — St. Marys’ five seniors made sure their final home game was a winner and that the Roughriders are heading into the tournament on their first winning streak of the season.
St. Marys senior guard Derrick Lauth read where the ball was going next, lunged from the free throw line into the passing lane near the top of the three-point arc, swatted away a Shawnee pass and then chased the ball all the way down to the opposite baseline. Lauth didn’t quite come up with the ball before it bounded into the pep band’s corner of the baseline seating, but St. Marys boys basketball coach Dan Hegemier clapped and cajoled the fans to cheer even more for the effort.
“He gave us a good spark, didn’t he?” Hegemier said after the game.
He wasn’t the only one. The Riders’ five seniors brought the energy needed to close out the regular season on a high note with a tip-off to final buzzer 61-47 victory on Friday night.
St. Marys put three players in double figures, all five seniors — Garet Fledderjohann, Austin James, Adam Neal, Jarrett Taylor and Lauth — got in the scorebook as the Roughriders have won back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“It’s a great way for us to end the season and great for our seniors to go out winners the last time they’re going to play here,” said Hegemier, who won his 496th career game and is within four victories of becoming the 44th 500-win coach in Ohio high school basketball history. The game featured a pair of coaches in Hegemier and Shawnee’s Dick Heath who have combined to win 819 games.
Fledderjohann led all the Riders with 17 points to move within four points of Adam Johns’ 1,068 points for No. 3 on the school’s all-time scoring list.
James drained 4-of-8 three-pointers for his 12 points and became the school’s single-season 3-point record holder with 62 made treys. He passed Tom Burke’s 61 made treys in 2004-2005, acccording to St. Marys basketball historian Mike Jay.
St. Marys sophomore Quinn Zaerr came off the bench and was a tidy 5-of-7 from the floor for 12 points. Isaac Fitzgerald also scored eight points off the bench, as the two put up the Roughriders’ 20 bench points.
Hegemier liked St. Marys’ balance on offense. “We’ve been spending a lot of time with that,” Hegemier said. “You just can’t win with one. Quinn started off hot. Austin started off hot.”
St. Marys shot 54 percent from the floor on 25-of-46 shooting and shot 68 percent inside the 3-point arc for the game.
While Fledderjohann has been ripping off 20 point games — and even a 40-point performance a week ago — regularly over the past few weeks on his road to 1,000 points and moving into fourth in the all-time scoring list, St. Marys is at its best when he can do the work he did on Friday night, Hegemier said. With the team putting multiple scoring threats on the floor, Fledderjohann became a masterful distributor. Shawnee guarded Fledderjohann closely with 6-foot sophomore Marquis Miller, Hegemier said.
“He had to earn every point he got, but criminy sakes, he must have had eight or 10 assists, and that’s what a good point guard does,” Hegemier said.
The WBL home victory is St. Marys’ first since beating Kenton at home on Dec. 16, 2011.
Shawnee nearly emptied the bench, throwing everyone except the ball boys into the game in waves as first-year head coach and program rebuild specialist Dick Heath tries to build depth with a young Shawnee team that shocked Wapakoneta a week ago and had won three of its last five heading into Friday night’s game.
“They’ve been playing really well,” Hegemier said. “They don’t quit. They have nice athletes. For a team that’s had a lot of hard luck, I give a lot of credit to them and their coaches.”
Shawnee’s Jay Thomas led all scorers with 18 points off the bench.
The Indians play Bath on Tuesday in the opening game at Lima Senior. The Roughriders will play Kenton on Tuesday night at Lima Senior in a Division II sectional semifinal at approximately 8 p.m. Kenton beat the Roughriders 48-40 at Kenton on Dec. 14. The Wildcats lost to Wapakoneta 52-41 on Friday night.
“I’m sure Kenton is a lot better and I know we’re a lot better,” Hegemier said of the teams since their early-season match-up.
Rebounding woes hurt the Riders in that eight-point WBL loss to the Wildcats. “They’ve got some big guys, so we have to rebound a lot better, work our half court a lot better, and I’m going to want to get them to run the floor a little bit. We’ll enjoy this win tonight and then Saturday morning start working on tournament.”
St. Marys beat Shawnee for just the second time in eight years. Last season, Shawnee's Thad Vernon knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Riders, 57-55.