ELIDA — Elida’s Dakota Mathias realizes there’s a bull’s-eye on his back.
When you’re averaging nearly 30 points per game, it’s inevitable opposing teams will try every defensive ploy possible in an effort to slow you down.
Lima Senior switched up different defenders on Mathias in Friday’s nonconference game at the Elida Fieldhouse. However, the 6-foot-4 junior found ways to make the Spartans pay as he poured in a game-high 31 points to lead Elida (6-2) to a hard-fought 71-68 victory.
When Mathias was unable to create a shot, he found open teammates, dishing out six assists on the night. In the fourth quarter, Mathias got to the free throw line often, making 10-of-11 shots from the line. Several times throughout the game, Mathias found Aric Thompson for the open shot. Thompson scored 17 points, including 3-of-6 shooting from behind the arc. Max Stambaugh also had some open shots for Elida, scoring 11. Ebin Stratton, the defensive and rebounding specialist for the Bulldogs, scored eight points and ripped down a game-high 12 boards.
Devon Allen led Lima Senior (4-3) with 23 points, including two 3-pointers. Isiah Simpson added 12 points for the Spartans.
Mathias credited his teammates for their unselfish play down the stretch.
“You just stick to your game plan,” Mathias said. “My teammates played great tonight. And that’s what you have to do. You have to find the open guy. They stepped up and that’s why we got the win.”
It was a game of runs.
In the first quarter, Lima Senior made a 10-6 run to close out the period to tie the game at 18. Mathias had a huge first quarter, scoring 12 points. Allen led the Spartans with seven first-quarter points.
In the second quarter, Lima Senior slowed Mathias down, holding him to 2-of-4 shooting from the floor. However, Stambaugh was 3-for-4 from the floor to help lead the Bulldogs to a 37-34 halftime lead.
However, Elida went ice cold in the third quarter, making just 4-of-17 from the floor. Mathias scored just two points in the quarter. Lima Senior slipped out with a 50-47 lead after three.
But in the fourth quarter, Mathias found his way to the free throw line. As a team, Elida was 12-of-16 shooting from the stripe, while Lima Senior was 4-of-8.
“I don’t think I got there (free throw line) in the first half,” Mathias said. “And that was one of my goals — coming out in the second half — to be more aggressive and try to get going that way.”
For the game, Elida shot 47 percent from the field, while Lima Senior shot 39 percent. In the rebounding department, Elida held a slight edge, 37-35.
“He (Mathias) played pretty well in the first half individually, especially in the first quarter,” Elida coach Denny Thompson said. “But I was surprised he didn’t get to the free throw in the first half.
“We attacked more in the second half. For him to have the kind of game he’s capable of having, he needs to get to the free throw line.”
Lima Senior coach Shawn Allen praised his players’ effort.
“We played against a great player and we did a great job. We put him at the free throw line a lot, but I felt the guy we lost at the end was Aric Thompson. We lost him there in the fourth quarter. But, that was because my kids were trying to take things away (from Mathias) and he (Thompson) was able to step up and put them down,” Allen said.