Bryan Ousts Roughriders

St. Marys’ Ethan Steger (24) attempts a contested shot against Bryan’s Titus Rohrer (12) during the second half of Friday’s Division II sectional final at Paulding High School.
Sports Editor

Entering Friday's Division II sectional final, both Bryan and St. Marys were without a sectional title in five years.

For one team, that skid would break, while for another, it would agonizingly continue.

Unfortunately, the Roughriders got the short end of the stick.

The Golden Bears played the Riders perfectly on defense — play zone defense, shut off the two big players and clog up the running lanes to the basket to force St. Marys into perimeter shooting.

For most teams, that gameplan does not work, but for Bryan it did.

St. Marys shot just 28% from the field — missing a number of layups and 3-pointers — while First-Team All-WBL selection Ethan Steger fouled out late in the fourth quarter as the Golden Bears ousted the Roughriders 46-39 at Paulding High School.

The Golden Bears (18-5) will play Defiance, who defeated Wapakoneta in the early game on Friday, on Wednesday in a district semifinal. For the Roughriders, the most successful season in nearly a decade ends too soon at 19-4.

“When perimeter shooting leads us, then its a problem," Roughriders coach Dan Hegemier said. "It was like this all year but we've been able to dodge it a little bit. We've gone up against a couple of big guys and we had to shoot from the perimeter and the ball wouldn't drop and we missed a bunch of layups in the second quarter, end of  the first.

"Every ball seemed to bounce their way and not our way. It's nothing you can do. You have to give them credit and I feel bad for our kids. The seniors have done a great job this year and I just feel bad for them."

Long scoring droughts put the Riders in a bind throughout the night.

St. Marys' final lead came on an Ethan Steger faraway jumper with 2:43 remaining in the third quarter for a 25-24 score, but that was the last field goal St. Marys had in the quarter as the Golden Bears took a 30-27 heading into the fourth quarter.

Steger opened the fourth quarter with a bucket to pull the game to within one, but it was the last field goal for the Riders for nearly two minutes as Bryan extend its lead to five. 

A Steger basket and a transition bucket by LeTrey Williams made it a one-point game again with 3:23 remaining.

What compounded things for St. Marys was the fact that its leading scorer in Steger fouled out of the game with 2:27 left in the game with Bryan leading 40-36.

"When he goes, we are in trouble," Hegemier added.

St. Marys finished the game 1-of-7 from the field in the last 3:23 of the game and 1-of-4 once Steger fouled out. The final field goal — a 3-pointer by Jack Cisco — came with the team down 10 with under a minute left to go. 

While the Riders shot 8-of-28 from the field in the second half, Bryan couldn't miss, going 11-of-16, outscoring St. Marys 20-11 in the final 9:30 after its last lead of the game and getting nine of those 20 from 6-foot-6 junior Titus Rohrer.

"Our ball movement was just poor," Hegemier added. "We've played against good zones all year and we've been practicing against it all year but we were tentative in what we did and then when you miss some shots, you get tighter and tighter."

The Roughriders also suffered a scoring drought in the second quarter that gave Bryan momentum heading into the second half.

After ending the opening quarter with a 5-0 advantage, St. Marys extended its lead to 15-11 with 6:58 to play in the first half, but suffered an 0-of-12 slump from the field, finishing 1-of-13 in its final 13 shots of the half and just 2-of-14 in the quarter overall. 

In the meantime, the Golden Bears scored the game's next seven points — culminated by a Rohrer 3-pointer to lead 18-15 and eventually go into the half up 18-17.

Friday's loss was the final game for four seniors, Steger, Cisco, Max Mielke and Carson Fischbach who helped guide a team to the most wins in a season since 2004-05.

"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them," Hegemier said. "When one shows up, they all show up and they have done a great job of it this year. 

"They wanted to win, they played hard and they put in the effort. They haven't had much success in the past and they wanted to have success and they had some this year and I just want to thank them for that."