ELIDA — The table was set.
Shawnee wanted to improve on its three-peat of the Mercy Health Tipoff Classic.
Lima Central Catholic was poised to stop the streak.
Shawnee weathered the storm from LCC, especially late in the game, and slipped out with a hard-fought 68-60 victory over the T-Birds in Saturday’s championship game of the Mercy Health Tipoff Classic at the Elida Fieldhouse.
Austin Miller and Brady Wheeler each scored 23 points to lead Shawnee (2-0). Miller also pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds. Wheeler made three steals at the defensive end. Ja’Mari Johnson added 11 points and five boards for the Indians.
Evan Unruh led LCC (1-1) with 17 points, including four 3-pointers. Seth Mikesell had 16 points, including three shots behind the arc. Billy Bourk added 11 points, four boards and a block for the T-Birds.
“When we came out (early in the game), I think we were up 18-10,” Shawnee head coach Mark Triplett said. “We hit them in the mouth a little bit, but they (LCC) kept coming at us.”
The first eight minutes set the tone for the rest of the game.
The lead changed hands twice in the opening quarter before Shawnee managed to slip out with a 20-17 lead by the first stop.
Unruh kept the T-Birds in the hunt, scoring nine first-quarter points, including three 3-pointers. Wheeler poured in seven first-quarter points for the Indians.
LCC came out strong in the second quarter.
The T-Birds’ defensive pressure helped cause six second-quarter turnovers for the Indians. LCC slipped out with a 33-32 lead by the halftime break.
Mikesell led the way for LCC, scoring seven second-quarter points. Mikesell ended the half with 11 points, including two big 3-pointers.
Wheeler led Shawnee in the first half with 11 points.
Shawnee led 48-47 at the end of the third quarter.
Shawnee closed it out in the fourth quarter at the free throw line. The Indians were 8 of 10 from the charity stripe in the final eight minutes.
Triplett said that his team stepped up down the stretch.
“We really started to execute better at the offensive end. ‘Mills’ (Austin Miller) and Brady (Wheeler) really attacked the basket. I thought we got some big offensive rebounds; and we hit some key free throws late,” Triplett said.
For the game, Shawnee shot 49 percent from the field. LCC countered with 40-percent shooting from the floor.
Triplett praised the effort of Austin Miller.
“He was our sixth man last year. He just came back a couple weeks ago from soccer. … We expect him to keep getting better,” Triplett said.
Elida 37, Bath 27
After a nip-and-tuck three quarters of action, Elida finally pulled away from Bath for a 10-point victory in Saturday’s consolation game.
There were four lead changes in the first quarter, before the score was knotted 11-11 at the first stop.
Andrew Stahr led the Wildcats with five first-quarter points. Jackson Covault led the Bulldogs with five first-quarter markers.
Elida went into the halftime break with an 18-13 lead.
In the first half, Bath was 3 of 13 shooting from the field for 23 percent. Elida connected on 7 of 20 from the floor for 35 percent.
Elida pulled out to a 29-22 advantage by the end of the third quarter.
For the game, Covault led Elida (1-1) with 11 points and six rebounds. Drake Craddock led Bath (0-2) with nine points.
For the game, Elida shot 35 percent from the field. Bath ended the night, shooting 24 percent.
Saturday’s victory marked the first one at Elida for first-year Elida head coach Matt Tabler, who was the longtime head coach at Perry before coming to Elida.
“Our kids play hard,” Tabler said. “They earn what they get. People don’t see them on a daily basis, and see how hard they practice. To play in our system, you have to play hard, and then be able to translate it to the game. There were a lot of kids that stepped up and made big plays for us tonight.”
The Mercy Health Tipoff Classic all-tournament team was named, following Saturday’s games.
LCC’s Evan Unruh and Seth Mikesell, Elida’s Jackson Covault, and Shawnee’s Brady Wheeler and Austin Miller were the five players selected by the coaches and media.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.