LIMA — When Toledo St. John’s boys basketball coach Ed Heintschel learned his starting point guard Austin Gardner wouldn’t be making the trip to Lima Senior on Friday night, he knew he still had a good backup plan.
With Gardner at home with the flu, Chris Stearns got the start in his place for the Titans and Ohio State recruit Marc Loving got the ball even more than usual.
The second part of that equation was the key.
Loving scored a school-record 42 points, 23 of them at the free throw line, to lead St. John’s to a 78-60 win over Lima Senior.
The 6-foot, 8-inch senior hit three 3-pointers, had two slam dunks, connected on 23 of his 26 free throws and pulled down 12 rebounds.
St. John’s freshman Gabe Kynard, who scored nine points, was the only other Titan with more than 7 points. Isiah Simpson and Devon Allen — the only seniors on Lima Senior’s roster — each had 19 points.
Lima Senior (7-14, 4-9 Three Rivers Athletic Conference) was in the game at halftime when it trailed only 34-31.
But St. John’s (18-3, 12-1 TRAC) gradually pulled away in the final two quarters. The Titans have lost to only one team in Ohio this season, a 61-59 defeat at Findlay in December is a game Loving missed because he had the flu.
“I thought our kids’ effort was better than it has been in two weeks,” Lima Senior coach Shawn Allen said.
“We were aggressive, we fought, we cared, we tried. Now we have to see if we can bottle that, come back on Monday (for practice) and try to go get a win at Findlay and carry that into the tournament.
“Tonight I wasn’t disappointed with their effort and there have been times in the last three or four games when I have been,” he said.
Heintschel was less than excited with his team’s performance in the first two quarters, but saw significant improvement in the second half.
“Early on the guys missed some shots and as the game went on, we hit more of them. And Marc was just a huge factor, obviously,” he said.
St. John’s hit 50 percent on field goals in the second half (9 of 18) after making only 32 percent of their attempts (10 of 31) in the first half. The Titans had a 33-14 edge in rebounding with their starters outrebounding Lima Senior’s starters 27-6.
“We did a better job of guarding their personnel in the second half, we just contained the ball a little bit better. They’re so quick we had a hard time going out and pressuring them the way we have been doing. We just had to adjust to that,” Heintschel said.
Allen said, “We just don’t have the match-up for Loving and the ball was in his hands more tonight since they didn’t have their point guard. He did what he was supposed to do because he’s the leader of that team.”
Loving’s 42 points broke the St. John’s record of 41, set by Shane Komives in 1991 against Perrysburg. Komives, a St. John’s assistant coach, was on the bench to see the record fall.