PERRY TOWNSHIP — Eight days together, and two wins.
With the Delphos St. John’s football team making the postseason playoffs, that meant St. John’s boys’ basketball coach Aaron Elwer would get a late start with his squad.
Not a big deal.
St. John’s traveled to Perry on Saturday night and slipped out with a hard-fought 42-34 victory over the Commodores in nonconference action.
The early-season rust was evident as the Blue Jays (2-0) shot 38 percent from the field.
However, there wasn’t much rust to the rest of St. John’s game.
The Blue Jays battled back from an early deficit, and then staved off the Commodores down the stretch to notch the win.
The Blue Jays did not have a player score in double figures. However, different players stepped up at different moments.
“It’s a back-to-back,” Elwer said. “We’ve had eight days together. To be 2-0 – it’s been a heck of a week for us. I’m excited for my guys. We have some new faces. It starts defensively for us. We’re feeling pretty good tonight.”
Last season, the Perry boys’ basketball team made a run all the way to the Division IV state semifinals, before bowing out to The Wellington School, 68-47.
Now, with several of last year’s key players gone, Perry is searching for their identity.
The Commodores struggled Saturday night, offensively, shooting 31 percent from the floor.
“We only had two guys out there who had any varsity minutes,” Perry coach Matt Tabler said. “So, our kids came out and they pleasantly surprised me. This was a big crowd to start the season, but they didn’t let that bother them. They just went out and played their game. So, I was happy.”
Jamal Whiteside was the lone Commodore to score in double figures. The 5-foot-9 junior scored 11 points and made two steals at the defensive end.
Perry (0-1) got off to a quick start against the Blue Jays, scoring the first six points. St. John’s finally got on the scoreboard at the 5:01 mark on a bucket by Collin Will, making it 6-2, Perry.
The Commodores pushed out to an 11-4 lead on a 3-pointer by Chazz Jackson.
However, the Blue Jays battled back, pulling within 1, 12-11, by the end of the first quarter.
St. John’s claimed its first lead, 13-12, just 20 seconds into the second quarter on an inside move by Curtis Schwinnen.
However, Perry, with its aggressive defensive pressure, responded with an 8-0 run to push its lead to 20-13, with 4:30 left in the half.
In the second quarter, the Commodores helped force six turnovers, with their aggressive half-court defensive pressure.
St. John’s, however, cut the deficit to 22-18 by the halftime break.
“It took us about a quarter-and-a-half to adjust to their team speed,” Elwer said. “They obviously were spreading us out and driving it. Overall, we weren’t doing a very good job. But as the game went on, that’s how we won (playing good defense). We go to the basketball extremely well. And when they did get to the rim, we did a pretty good job of contesting them, and a lot of times without fouling.”
The Blue Jays took a 23-22 lead at the 5:20 mark of the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Connor Hulihan.
The rest of the stanza was back-and-forth as St. John’s slipped out with a 27-26 lead by the end of the third.
Perry struggled from the field in the third quarter, hitting just 1 of 8 of its field goal attempts.
Perry’s shooting woes continued in the fourth quarter. The Commodores were 3-of-12 from the field in the final eight minutes of action.
St. John’s was 4-of-9 from the floor, and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line.
With three minutes left to play in the game, the score was knotted at 31 apiece.
Richard Cocuzza gave the Blue Jays a 34-31 lead with 1:59 left to play on a 3-pointer from the left wing.
Then moments later, Jared Wurst hit a 15-footer, pushing the Blue Jays’ lead to 36-31.
For the game, Perry committed 12 turnovers, while St. John’s turned it over 16 times.
“Their defense is tremendous,” Tabler said in reference to St. John’s. “Their offensive end is behind because they made a football playoff run. But, I thought our defense played at a high level. If we can continue to guard the way we guarded tonight, for the rest of the season, then we’ll be OK.”
Added Elwer, “Give credit to our guys with in-game adjustments to their speed and athleticism, that we obviously haven’t seen, and maybe won’t see for a long time.”
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0468.