ELIDA — All eyes were on Elida’s Dakota Mathias.
And a lot of those eyes belonged to the Delphos St. John’s defenders.
Mathias, who came into Saturday’s game against St. John’s averaging more than 40 points per game in the first three games of the season, was held to 14 points as the Blue Jays upended the Bulldogs 49-44 at the Elida Fieldhouse.
St. John’s (1-1) trapped Mathias nearly all night long as he was 5-of-13 shooting from the field. He did, however, pull down 12 rebounds and dish out three assists. Max Stambaugh scored 13 points and Austin Allemeier added 12 for Elida.
Ryan Buescher led St. John’s with 14 points, 12 rebounds and two steals. Curtis Geise, who was the primary defender on Mathias, scored 12 points.
“Our goal was to make it as difficult and keep it out of his (Mathias’) hands as much as we could,” St. John’s coach Aaron Elwer said. “We sat in the office this morning and put together a list of ideas of what we needed to do. We had a walk-through early this afternoon in preparation for the best player in the area. …And our kids nailed it. They did a great job and I’m so proud of them. This was totally a great team effort.”
Mathias was 2-of-5 shooting in the first half. In the second half, he was 2 for 8 from the floor. The junior standout did not make it to the free throw line until the fourth quarter (2 for 2).
“We wanted to limit the touches (by Mathias) by face-guarding him with Curtis (Geise) and at times with Evan (Hays) and even with Andy (Grothouse),” Elwer said. “We always had built-in help. We needed to always know where he was at. Again, I was really proud of our kids.”
Elida shot 31 percent from the field, while St. John’s countered with 29-percent shooting.
Elida came out of the first quarter with an 8-5 lead. St. John’s claimed its first lead of the game at the 3:35 mark of the second quarter, when Geise made two free throws to give his team a 12-10 lead.
Mathias hit his first of two 3-pointers of the game, at the 1:46 mark of the second quarter, giving the Bulldogs a 17-13 lead. Elida slipped into the halftime break with a 17-15 advantage.
In the third quarter, St. John’s defensive pressure held Elida to 3-of-8 shooting as the Blue Jays pulled out to a 30-25 lead at the end of three quarters of action.
In the fourth quarter, the Blue Jays were 10-of-13 from the charity stripe. Elida was just 2-of-2 from the stripe in the final stanza.
Elwer realized his team had to not only slow down Mathias, but also limit Aric Thompson’s touches as well. Thompson (four points), an outside shooting threat for the Bulldogs, did not hit his first field goal until the fourth quarter.
“Those were the two. …We had game plans for both of these guys,” Elwer said. “We wanted to limit Mathias’ touches the best that we could and not leave Thompson open to give him a spot shot. There were a couple breakdowns, but I thought we did a great job on them.”
Elida played Saturday’s game without two of its starters. Ebin Stratton, a 6-foot-4 defensive specialist, was serving the second of a two-game suspension. Guard Louis Gray was out with a hand injury. Gray’s status is unknown at this time.
“Give Delphos (St. John’s) credit for making the game the way it was,” Elida coach Denny Thompson said. “Their intention was to make the game that way and they were able to do that.
“The matchups caused us issues. I think our lack of experience allowed for the difficulties we had, offensively. We felt there were areas that we could attack. When we did, we were successful. But we couldn’t get successive possessions.”