SPENCERVILLE – in the past several years, Defiance has had a knack of coming up with big wins in the postseason.
So when the Bulldogs, sliced Shawnee’s lead to six, 28-22, with 5:30 left in the third quarter, Defiance looked to add another exciting tournament victory. However, the Indians closed out the period with a 9-2 run to up the lead to 39-24 and then closed it out in the fourth quarter to secure the 56-38 victory and in the Division II district semifinal Wednesday night.
Shawnee advances to take on St. Marys to make it an all-Western Buckeye League district final showdown at Spencerville at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Defiance ends its year with a 15-11 mark.
The Indians, who beat Defiance by 77-43 back in December, had a decidedly tougher time with the Bulldogs this time around as the Bulldogs slowed the usually potent Indians offense early but it was Shawnee’s defense that was the catalyst in the victory.
Shawnee head coach Mark Triplett gave credit to Defiance for coming out with a solid game plan to handle his team’s offense, and it took the run at the end of the third quarter and another run in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
“I think a lot of that had to do with them defensively and them packing it in and sometimes shots don’t fall and that is basketball and that is life in general,” Triplett said. “You have to overcome adversity and it’s easy when the ball is going through the net, and we had to find other ways to score and find some offense to create from our defense. They came out with a game plan and executed it.”
Defiance head coach Bryn Lehman admitted that he wanted the Indians to beat him from the outside.
“They are a tremendous team so runs are going to happen and that is inevitable as good as they are but the bottom line is we didn’t play scared,” Lehman said. “We didn’t fear them like we did in December. We had our eyes open in a big way in December, and I think that showed the growth and maturation of these guys.
“Our game plan was that a couple of their guys were going to beat us from deep and we were really going to suck in and be right next to (Tyson) Elwer and right next to (George) Mangas and we did a really great job early. George got a couple of lobs there in the second quarter that got him a couple of buckets but outside of that we had a guy standing next to him at all times, and we were cautious on the perimeter, and we wanted them to beat us from there, and there was a large stretch that if we would have got some rebounds it might have been different.”
Even though Defiance’s defense was good, Shawnee’s was better. The Indians displayed that by holding the Bulldogs to 12 points in the first half and three in the second quarter.
“Our job defensively is to do the same thing to them and make life difficult for them,” Triplett said. “We wanted to take away their biggest threats, and they are a difficult team to defend because they have five starters that average between 8 and 10 a game.
“Our goal and our emphasis was to give them one look and we know they shoot the basketball pretty well and if they hit the first shot we’d live with it but if they don’t we had to rebound and then create some offensive opportunities on the long rebounds and get out in transition,” Triplett added. “We really didn’t do that in the first quarter. We got no transition points. The last time we played them we got 16 points in the first quarter.”
Shawnee’s George Mangas, who had only two points in the first quarter, finished with 23 points and was the main offensive force in the second quarter when he scored 11 of the Indians’ 13 points.
Indian Brady Wheeler added 15 points and was instrumental in giving the Indians the early advantage after hitting a trio of treys in the first quarter. He finished with four 3-pointers for the game.
Elwer may have scored three points on the night but he had two blocked shots and Lehman said was one of the main reasons the Indians were successful on defense.
“They are really tough pressuring the ball and Wheeler is really tough pressuring the ball but it is easy when you have a guy like Tyson Elwer who sits down in the middle and people are not going to score on him,” Lehman said. “I might be the biggest Elwer fan of anybody. He is very underappreciated. People don’t understand how good he is so that makes everybody else’s job easier when you can start denying passing lanes and really, really pressure the ball hard which they did, so we really had to work.”
Defiance’s Cayden Zacharich was the lone Bulldog in double digits with 12 points.
St. Marys 58, Wauseon 43
SPENCERVILLE — St. Marys held off a late fourth-quarter Wauseon rally to secure a victory.
St. Marys improves to 16-6 on the year. The Roughriders lost to Shawnee, 53-45, during the regular season. Wauseon ends its year with a 16-5 mark.
The Roughriders owned a 31-14 lead at halftime.
St. Marys’ Jadin Davis had 20 points and LeTrey Williams chipped in 16 points and Austin Parks added 13 points. For Wauseon, Jonas Tester pumped in 17 points and Connor Penrod added 15 points.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.