WAPAKONETA — St. Marys boys head basketball coach Dan Hegemier stressed to his team the importance of getting off to a good start.
Hegemier’s squad responded in a big way in Friday’s Western Buckeye League opener at Wapakoneta.
St. Marys got out to the early lead, then held off Wapakoneta down the stretch for a hard-fought 51-47 victory at Wapakoneta.
The Roughriders jumped out to a 10-0 lead to start the contest, and never trailed.
However, Wapakoneta battled back in the second half and cut it to two points in the waning moments, before St. Marys was able to finally slip out with the win.
“We were very disappointed in our game last Friday (loss to St. Henry), because we got off to a slow start,” Hegemier said. “We just couldn’t get back into it.
“Tonight, we had a good start. I thought we defended really well. Some of the loose balls, we weren’t very good at, tonight. Then, we have to finish at the end, when we shoot free throws (6 for 11 in the fourth quarter). But a win is a win. … I’m happy.”
LeTrey Williams and Gavin Reineke each scored 13 points for St. Marys (3-1, 1-0 WBL). Austin Parks, a 6-foot, 9 ½-inch sophomore post player had 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Jadin Davis scored nine points, including a perfect 6 of 6 shooting from the free throw line for the Roughriders.
Noah Ambos led Wapakoneta (4-1, 0-1 WBL) and all scorers with 22 points. The senior guard was a perfect 8 of 8 shooting from the free throw line. Braeden Goulet had eight points and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Kaden Siefring added eight points and five boards for the Redskins.
St. Marys wasted no time Friday night.
The Roughriders jumped out to a 10-0 lead to start the contest. A 3-pointer by Reineke ignited the run by the Roughriders. Reinke dialed long distance twice in the first period.
Wapakoneta did not score its first points until the 2:36 mark of the first quarter. Ambos hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 7, 10-3. Ambos connected twice behind the 3-point line in the first stanza.
The Redskins committed six turnovers in the first eight minutes of action. For the game, Wapakoneta turned it over 13 times.
The Roughriders led 15-8 at the first stop.
“Ultimately, we got off to a slow start, tonight,” Wapakoneta first-year head coach Trey Elchert said. “I was telling our guys; it was like we were stuck in mud at both ends of the floor. We could not move, offensively. … We weren’t really cutting hard. Defensively, we weren’t ready to move our feet.”
The Redskins battled back.
With 3:10 left to play in the first half, Wapakoneta cut it to 4, 20-16, on an inside move by Goulet.
However, the Roughriders responded and went into the halftime break with a 28-23 lead.
Parks got busy and scored a couple times down low in the second quarter to help the Roughriders hold on to their lead.
Ambos led the Redskins in the first half with 12 points.
Williams led the Roughriders with eight first-half points.
In the third quarter, St. Marys held off Wapakoneta, and came away with a 38-33 lead by the third stop.
With 2:51 left to play in the game, Ambos made two free throws to cut it to 5, 44-39.
The Redskins cut it to five, three more times in the final frame.
Then, with less than 30 seconds left in the game, Ambos hit a close-range shot to cut it to 2, 49-47.
However, St. Marys managed to stave off Wapakoneta down the stretch and secure the win.
For the game, Wapakoneta shot 41 percent from the field. St. Marys countered with 35-percent shooting from the floor.
On the night, St. Marys turned the ball over nine times.
Both teams came away with 24 rebounds on the night.
“St. Marys came out ready to play,” Elchert said. “They built that 10-0 lead to start. … Then, we’re fighting an uphill battle the rest of the way, against a quality team.”
Added Hegemier, “Ambos is a nice player. I told them that they couldn’t leave him open – or any of the Wapak kids. They can shoot it, and they shoot it well.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.