LIMA — St. Marys head basketball coach Dan Hegemier laid out the blueprint for a tournament upset to his team just minutes after his Roughriders advanced in the tournament with a 64-58 win over Shawnee on Tuesday night and No. 14 Elida looming.
“I just told the guys in the locker room that I’ve been doing this awhile and I’ve beaten some good teams in the tournament and I’d like to do it again,” Hegemier said. “But you can’t be indecisive, you have to be confident, you have to play hard and you have to play together.”
It’s what his team will need when it faces one of the Ohio’s best players and teams on Friday night. The St. Marys boys basketball team faces top-seeded and 14th-ranked Elida (19-10) in a Division II sectional title game at Lima Senior at 6:15 p.m.
As the Roughriders found out in January, a good effort may not be enough against a Big Ten talent like Dakota Mathias and the deep shooting roster of the Bulldogs. Elida torched the nets in the 77-59 win over the Roughriders back on Jan. 10. Elida knocked down 13 three-pointers and shot 67 percent from the floor as a team in the regular season Western Buckeye League victory at the Elida Fieldhouse.
St. Marys played well in the first meeting with Elida, shooting 59 percent from the floor. Isaac Fitzgerald paced a balanced scoring attack with 11 points. Derek Jay had nine points while Marquis Wilson and Nathan Wilker added eight points apiece.
But Mathias and company were simply too much that night. Mathias, a future Purdue Boilermaker and a sharpshooter with a strong dribble-drive game and passing vision to compliment, had a game-high 29 points in that first meeting. Mathias splashed in 6 of 10 from long distance. Marquavious Wilson added 19 points on 8 of 9 shooting. Austin Allemeier had 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting from 3-point range and Louis Gray had 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting for Elida.
The WBL co-champs haven’t played since last Friday, when they clinched a share of the title with Defiance in exciting fashion 61-60 over Celina. After rallying from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, Elida’s Louis Gray hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left and Celina’s potential game winners were swatted away and then waved off at the buzzer. Mathias had 31 points and went 6 of 15 from 3-point range against the other Grand Lake St. Marys-adjacent WBL team.
There are no tricks or deceptions coming from the Bulldogs, Hegemier said. St. Marys’ last three opponents ran a 2-3 zone defense at the Riders to success, but Hegemier knows what he and his team will see on Friday.
“Elida is going to play man on us,” Hegemier said. “Simple as that. They’re going to play man. I haven’t seen them play anything else.”
St. Marys and Shawnee stayed stride for stride with each other on Tuesday night in the first half, going to the half locked together at 22-22. But St. Marys outscored the Indians 23-11 in the third quarter to create a cushion and the Roughriders held off a late Shawnee rally for the six-point win that reversed a regular-season loss to Shawnee.
The Roughriders (11-12) got a big lift from junior Tyler Sullivan, who had played on the JV squad much of the second half of the season. He entered the game with Quinn Zaerr in foul trouble and gave St. Marys 16 points on 5 of 6 shooting from the floor.
Denny Thompson’s Elida Bulldogs entered this postseason primed for a long run with Mathias leading the way and a good surrounding cast that includes Gray, Allemeier, Wilson, Max Stambaugh and Clark Etzler.
Elida has won eight straight games since its Jan. 20 loss to Toledo Bowsher. The Bulldogs are 17-1 since starting the season 2-2.
Elida is trying to get back to the district tournament for the third straight season, while St. Marys is trying to get to the district level for the first time since 2005.
Celina vs. Bath
The two teams that finished tied for second in the Western Buckeye League square off for a sectional title in the second game on Friday at Lima Senior around 8 p.m.
Bath won the regular season match-up in the first week of WBL play on Dec. 13 by a 63-54 score. Celina led 48-46 heading into the fourth quarter before the Wildcats turned o their full-court man press to go ahead and pull away.
“Bath is Bath. They’re doing the same things they were doing at the beginning of the year — they just got a whole lot better at it,” Celina head coach Chris Bihn said. “I think we know what to expect. We need to attack their press, attack their trap. Whenever they try to trap us, we have to make them pay. That’s going to be huge for us to be able to get around their traps.”
Bath, which had a program-best run to the regional final game a season ago, got 23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three blocks from Taren Sullivan. Ryan Hoyng led Celina with 17 points in that game.
Bath has won the last two meetings with Celina, a series that had been dominated by Celina for eight straight encounters from 2007 to 2012.