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Saturday, February 10th, 2018

Riders hold off Dogs

By Gary R. Rasberry

St. Marys' Austin Wilker, left, is pressured by Celina's Kole Murlin during Frid. . .

ST. MARYS - Several times this season, St. Marys boys basketball coach Craig Szymczak has seen his team lose fourth quarter leads and take some tough-luck losses.
Friday night in the annual Battle of Grand Lake, Celina made several charges at the Roughriders.
This time, though, clutch shooting prevailed for St. Marys in a 56-47 win at Murotech Court, snapping a 12-game Celina win streak in the series.
"We talked the entire week about playing four quarters," Szymczak said. "We've had so many games this season where we had the lead in the fourth quarter and let things slip away."
The Roughriders jumped out to the early lead thanks to hot 3-point shooting from Ethan Mielke, whose second 3-pointer of the quarter put St. Marys in the lead to stay. Braeden Dunlap added two free throws and Austin Wilker dropped in a trey of his own to compete an 8-0 run to put St. Marys in front 13-8 after one quarter.
The defense of the Roughriders also picked up the pace after Celina's Kole Murlin had six first-quarter points. Bo Kuenning came off the bench for the Roughriders to provide some extra size in the middle, forcing Murlin to receive the ball farther from the basket than usual.
"Kole got those quick six points in the first quarter. In the second half, he was catching the ball by three-point line," Szymczak said. "Instead of him just posting up, we got him out of the rhythm."
With Murlin limited to just two points in the second quarter, St. Marys put some distance between itself and the Bulldogs. Wilker added another trey and Drew Jacobs had four points as St. Marys led 24-14 at the half.
The struggle for Celina was shooting as the defense was playing solid. Celina was just 4-of-17 from the field in the first half and 1-of-8 from beyond the arc.
"I think playing a rivaly game like this, everybody's hyped up at the start of the game," said Celina coach Jay Imwalle. "I know the first time we subbed, guys were coming off the floor panting. They try to play so hard, it affects their shot and whatever else."
The Bulldogs caught some fire to start the third quarter as Kyle Flaute, Austin Okeley and Corbin Murphy helped get Celina to within six points at 29-23, only to have Wilker knock down another trey to help push the lead back up to 10.
The Bulldogs made another run in the fourth quarter. Brett Schwieterman hit two free throws with 2:23 remaining in regulation to trim the Roughrider lead to 49-45. St. Marys turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, but Celina missed a shot to get within a possession. The Roughriders made five trips to the foul line over the final 1:47 of the contest, making seven as Celina managed just one Jimi Briand layup in the same stretch.
"That's what it came down to. (St. Marys) hit big shots when they needed to," Imwalle said. "When we got it down to four, we had two really good looks. We hit that shot, the whole complexion changes a little bit. Give (St. Marys) credit. Every time we made a run, they answered."
"Even when (Celina) cut it down to four, you could see in our kids' eyes that they were confident," Szymczak said. "They stepped up to the line and made free throws and were able to get the win."
Wilker finished with 13 points to lead St. Marys (6-12, 4-2 WBL). Jacobs added 12 and Dunlap scored 10.
Flaute had 12 points and six rebounds for Celina (3-15, 2-5 WBL). Murlin finished with 13 points.
Both teams are back in action tonight. St. Marys travels to Minster for a girls-boys doubleheader. The junior varsity boys game will be played in the high school gym at 4:30 p.m. with the varsity boys game taking place after the girls' game in Wildcat Gymnasium. Celina is back home at the Fieldhouse to host the Troy Trojans.
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