Riders Grind Out Season-Opening Win

St. Marys' Kiley Tennant plays defense in the first quarter of Friday's season opener against Fort Jennings.
Sports Editor

Friday’s season opener was not just any game to begin a new season it was also honoring those who have made the St. Marys program it is today.

But in front of those great past players inducted into the infancy of the program’s hall of fame, the current Roughriders grind out their sixth straight season-opening win with a 42-33 victory against Fort Jennings. 

The Roughriders (1-0) overcame a 6-0 first-quarter deficit and struggles with perimeter shooting throughout the second half by relying on their defense and ball movement. 

“They went to the post and we made it too easy for them in the first three possessions,” Roughriders coach Jon Burke said. “We weren’t talking and we came out maybe a little rattled, but we just didn’t look very good right away. It was really us talking on defense and on offense I thought we had some good looks, we just weren’t finishing but once we settled in, we were OK.”

St. Marys trailed after the Musketeers connected on their first three possessions, but what has been accustomed between these two teams, turnovers made its usual impact as the Roughriders forced three straight turnovers — each leading to transition buckets — with Noelle Ruane’s layup tying the game 10-10 with 2:37 left in the opening quarter and Kiley Tennant connecting on her layup in transition for a 12-10 lead with 2:09 remaining. The Roughriders finished the quarter scoring eight straight points and ending on a 16-4 advantage.

St. Marys never trailed after its first quarter run, but the Musketeers stuck around.

Trailing by 10 at the half, Fort Jennings connected on a 3-pointer and a bucket to draw within five 25-20 with 5:58 as part of a 5-0 run to open the second half.

St. Marys, in the meantime, missed its first 11 shots — including six 3-pointers — as the Roughriders settled for jump shots with the Musketeers double-teaming Carly Caywood in the paint with the Riders leading 32-26 entering the fourth quarter.

“I thought they did a nice job taking Carly Caywood out of the game most of the night in the post,” Burke said. “We were trying to get high-low looks and stretch Carly out a little bit, but I thought they did a nice job of taking her out at half court. 

“We were trying to get the ball in the low post and kick out and sometimes we were shooting 3s and they just didn’t go down so we knew we were going to have to grind it out on defense and get out on transition to score some points on layup.”

Ball movement aided the Roughriders in the final quarter to break away from a four-point game, 32-28, with 6:56 remaining. That ball movement opened a crease for Caywood for a layup — for which she was fouled and drained a pair of free throws — and led to a pair of buckets from Dieringer and Ally Will to balloon the lead to 38-30 with 4:11 remaining. Caywood then got her first bucket of the game with 2:31 left to push the lead to 40-31 and eventually 42-31 on a bucket inside the paint by Dieringer.

Despite running into some foul trouble in the third quarter, Dieringer led the Riders with 14 points, followed by 11 from Ruane and five from Will.

Against a team the Roughriders usually handle — they came into Friday’s game beating Fort Jennings teams by an average of 18.4 points per game in the last five games — the Riders had to grind the game out until the middle of the fourth quarter to put the game away and win their sixth straight game against the Musketeers.

“I think it was good for us to grind this one out because in the WBL the post is pretty strong so to have a non-league game where they are able to really push your post a little bit — Carly was frustrated so we had to work through that tonight.

“We don’t have a true post player and we are trying to make our bigger guards into post players and that can be frustrating at times.”

The program honored 20 former players to its inaugural hall of fame prior to the start of the varsity game. Those honored included: Sue Lauth, MaryAnn Burden, Stephanie Gudorf, Connie Hamberg, Nikki Miars, Annie Raymond, Amy Bowers, Katie Lhamon, Jenny Steinke, Rachel Dedrick, Nan Kogee, Andrea Roth, Liz Krugh, Krissy Haines, Haley Fannon, Toya Anderson, Kerri Imwalle, Emily Shellabarger, Erika Thornsberry and Shania Taylor. 

The Roughriders won the one-half junior varsity game 37-6.