Riders Fall In Final Minutes To No. 8 Shawnee

St. Marys’ Gavin Reineke attempts 3-point field goal in the third quarter of Friday’s Western Buckeye League boys basketball game against Shawnee.
Sports Editor

The lasting image in Friday’s Western Buckeye League showdown with No. 8 ranked Shawnee is George Mangas slamming the ball down for his second dunk of the night and turning around to wave goodbye to the St. Marys players to put an exclamation point on the Indians’ 58-49 win.

Hopefully for the blue and gold faithful, that lasting image doesn’t last too long.

Mangas accounted for more than half of the Indians’ points and their defense stymied the Roughriders throughout the night, but St. Marys — a program not accustomed to being in big games — did not let the big stage on a hostile environment overwhelm and the Roughriders battled back on multiple occasions throughout the night before coming up short in the end. 

“You’ve got to live and learn, man, you just have to live and learn, that is the most important thing,” Roughriders coach Dan Hegemier said. “We have a game tomorrow and we have a lot of the season to go through, but you just have to live and learn.

“Like I have told them, you have to believe in yourself, you’ve got to believe in your teammates and you’ve got to believe in your coaches and everything should work out.”

After scoring just 20 points in the first half, St. Marys stormed back from an eight-point deficit beginning with a 3-pointer by Jadin Davis, two free throws by Ethan Steger and a trey by Gavin Reineke — his first of two in the third quarter — to cut the eight-point deficit to three, 31-28 with 4:01 remaining in the quarter.

Back-to-back layups by Mangas put the Indians’ lead back up to seven, 35-28 before the Riders crawled back again with a transition basket by Steger, Reineke’s second 3-pointer, a Davis putback and a 3-pointer by LeTrey Williams to pull the game within 39-38 with :44 seconds left in the third quarter. 

Shawnee extended its lead back to five at the end of the quarter and with 5:23 left in the game after Mangas connected on 1-of-2 free throws to keep the lead at five. 

But Davis connected on another triple and after a pair of free throws from Mangas, Williams scored his final points of the game on a 3-pointer from the left wing to pull the game to within one again, 49-48, with 3:16 left in regulation as the St. Marys crowd was at its loudest in a near-deafening gymnasium.

“I give our guys a great deal of credit,” Hegemier said. “They battled, battled, battled, came back and battled, but in the last two of three minutes we just didn’t have enough.

“We battled hard in a tough environment.”

Williams’ 3-pointer was the last field goal St. Marys made as Shawnee pulled away on a bucket by Mangas, a 3-pointer by Jarin Bertke left alone on the left wing and one free throw each by Brady Wheeler and Mangas before Mangas dunked the ball with seconds remaining. 

The Roughriders came out firing in the second half with six of their nine 3-pointers all  coming in a matter of 9:30. Davis — who led the team with 15 points and four treys — connected from downtown twice in the second half and Reineke’s only points were the 3-pointers he scored in the third quarter. Williams, who was shut out in the first half,  connected on a pair of 3-pointers in the second half. 

“We walked it through on what we wanted to do when they went in their box-and-1 or the 1-2-2 or man-to-man, we had to walk them through it,” Hegemier said. “These guys have not been in big-time games before. We have had two of them and we have competed well — we competed better this time — but the last couple of minutes we didn’t have anybody who could get us over the hump."

The Roughriders’ biggest culprit was at the free-throw line.

St. Marys finished a season-worse 4-of-13 from the line, shots that would have come in handy in the third quarter that would have made it a three-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter instead of five and a better showing than the 1-of-5 in the first quarter would have chipped away at the eight-point halftime deficit. 

The Riders missed nine free throws and lost by nine points.

“You can’t win big games that way,” Hegemier added.

For the full story, read Saturday's print edition of The Evening Leader.