SPENCERVILLE — Some boys basketball games are about finesse.
Shawnee’s district championship win vs. St. Marys was about the battle, and the Indians proved they were ready for the fight in a physical 65-52 victory Saturday night at Spencerville.
Two players for each team fouled out over the course of a grueling 32-minute struggle. Five different players scored at least six points.
“We had a lot of guys in foul trouble, and different guys produced for us off the bench,” Shawnee coach Mark Triplett said. “It was a great team effort for us.”
Shawnee will face Shelby in the regional semifinals at 8 p.m. Thursday at Elida High School. The Whippets, appearing in their first district championship game in a decade, beat Norwalk, 64-44.
The key was playing smart basketball and focusing on the fundamentals despite the physicality of the Roughriders, said George Mangas, who finished with 26 points and seven rebounds for the 23-1 Indians, the No. 2-ranked team in Division II.
“Moving without the ball really helped us. They were being really aggressive,” Mangas said. “We just had to find ourselves, be confident no matter what and be physical right back at them.”
Mangas showed his versatility, knocking the ball away from Roughrider players and going up for the layup three times in the game. He had 17 points in the first half for the Indians, who opened the game with a 9-2 lead and never let it get closer than six points after that.
“I just read their eyes and see passing lanes that I can get,” Mangas said. “Especially if I’m getting doubled, I’ve got to find any way to score. Defense usually leads to offense for me.”
Shawnee came out hot in the first half on their way to a 37-23 lead at the break. The Indians hit 47.4% of their baskets inside the 3-point line. Somehow they were even better outside the arc, hitting all but one of their five 3-pointer attempts. Overall, they finished the game hitting 55.2% of their shots, including 70% behind the 3-point line.
Some of that came from Austin Miller, who scored 12 points for the Indians, including nine in the third quarter, who relished the opportunity to return to regionals after COVID-19 ended last year’s tournament before the regional finals.
“We have some unfinished business,” Miller said. “We’re back.”
St. Marys finished the year at 16-7. Ladin Davis had a team-high 17 points, while LeTrey Williams and Austin Parks each scored 14. Parks also had nine rebounds and three blocks to go with three dunks that impressed the crowd but couldn’t swing the momentum.
Mangas grinned as he thought about returning to regionals.
“Especially with what happened last year, I’m just glad I get a second chance at it.” Mangas said. “We’re going to make the most of it. I can’t wait for next Thursday.”