By DAVE HANNEMAN
Technically, Findlay High boys basketball Jim Rucki entered Friday’s game against Fremont Ross with 201 career victories.
Realistically, Rucki will remember his milestone 200th win at Findlay as the night the Trojans scrapped, hustled and simply overpowered arch-rival Fremont Ross, 71-34 in a three Rivers Athletic Conference matchup.
“I thought we showed a hunger tonight. We got after it and played with a lot of intensity,” Rucki said.
“We talked before the game that we could not sit back. We had to be physical and match their aggressiveness, and I think we did. “
Fremont Ross, which entered the game 4-1 overall and in a four-way tie for second in the TRAC at 2-1, jumped to a quick 4-0 lead on an offensive rebound and a lay-up off a Findlay turnover.
Then, it was like somebody flipped the switch on a Christmas tree and the Trojans lit it up.
Despite some nagging turnovers, Findlay was getting good looks inside thanks to excellent execution and sharp passing on offense. Defensively, the Trojans were forcing turnovers as well, shutting down everything in the paint, and contesting shots from the perimeter.
With Adam Twining and Austin Gutting scoring six points each, Findlay overturned that early 4-0 deficit with a 14-2 run.
Twining added another six points in the second quarter and Joseph Davidson scored seven as Findlay’s lead grew to 22-10, then 29-12 and 33-14 at the half.
Findlay wasn’t just scoring points. The Trojans were scoring points in bunches, and a 9-0 run expanded the margin to 42-16 just 4:21 into the second half.
“We made some defensive mistakes and the tempo was definitely not in our favor,” said Fremont Ross coach Mark Gedeon. “Their offensive execution led to some nice runs and we’ve talked before that if (Findlay) gets a lead, you better pin your ears back.
“We’re disappointed. We know we’re a better team than that. But you have to give Findlay credit. They were definitely more physical that we were, they really got up and down the floor and they beat us in every phase of the ball game.”
One play in particular epitomized Findlay’s hustling get-after-it style of play.
With just more than three minutes left in the second quarter, Twining came up with a steal on the defensive end, but with his momentum taking him out of bounds the junior guard flung the ball as far as far as he could the other way.
It looked like the ball would go out of bounds on Findlay’s end. But the ball took a big bounce, hit the rim and bounced back.
Davidson, hustling up court, grabbed the loose ball, laid it in, was fouled, and completed the three-point play.
“I try to run the floor whenever I can,” said Davidson, a 6-foot-7 senior forward. “When that happens in practice, coach gets on us because you never know when somebody might miss on a break-away. It just happened to hit the rim, fall in my hands and I got the basket and an and-one.”
For the second straight game, a strong inside attack powered the Trojans (3-2, 2-1 TRAC). Davidson had 20 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Gutting added a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double, and Twining had 14 points.
“We wanted to be really physical on both ends because we saw we had a height advantage and a little more physicality inside,” Davidson said.
“That’s what Joseph can do,” Rucki said. “He’s long, he’s aggressive and tonight he was very active. We don’t run a lot of (sets) for him so he needs to be hungry. He realizes if he wants it he has to go get it, and he’s been doing that.”
Davidson said the chance to earn Rucki his 200th career win by beating a long-time rival like Fremont Ross was a bonus. But the Trojans may have an added incentive Friday.
“Yesterday, we did not have a very good practice and coach got on us a little bit,” Davidson said. “We wanted to come out tonight and play well. We got fired up.”
A day before Friday’s TRAC matchup with Fremont Ross, Rucki’s 199-94 career at Findlay High jumped to 201-94 when the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced that, because it had used a player determined to be ineligible, Toledo Whitmer must forfeit all of its wins from the 2011-12 season, two of them wins over Findlay.
Turning those losses to Whitmer into wins also earned Findlay a three-way share of the 2011-12 TRAC boys basketball title.
The way things are going, Santa is going to have to step it up a notch.
“We beat (Toledo) St. John’s (61-59) on Tuesday, we got a TRAC championship on Thursday and we beat Fremont on Friday,” Rucki said.
“It’s been a pretty good week, and next week we have Christmas.”
Findlay junior varsity also improved to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in TRAC, with Joey Hammond’s 13 points leading the Trojans to a 49-27 win over the Fremont Ross reserves.
FREMONT ROSS (4-2, 2-2)
Gedeon 1-5 0-1 2, Dr. Starks 1-9 3-3 5, Dy. Starks 1-5 0-2 2, Wolf 3-7 0-1 6, Solander 2-3 0-0 4, Metcalf 0-1 0-0 0, Ballinger 0-2 0-0 0, Jagodzinski 1-2 3-4 5, Jones 4-7 0-0 8. TOTALS: 14-41 6-11—34.
findlay (3-2, 2-1)
Miller 3-5 0-0 7, Clark 1-5 4-4 6, Twining 6-11 2-2 14, Davidson 7-10 6-6 20, Gutting 5-10 2-2 12, Niswander 1-1 0-0 3, Gobrecht 1-3 0-0 2, Kairys 1-1 0-0 2, Moss 1-1 0-0 2, Haynes 1-2 1-2 3, Buford 0-0 0-0 0, Fisher 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 27-49 16-17—71.
Fremont Ross 8 6 10 10 — 34
Findlay 14 19 13 25 — 71
3-Point GOALS: Fremont Ross 0-13 (Gedeon 0-2, Metcalf 0-1, Dr. Starks 0-5, Dy. Starks 0-1, Ballinger 0-1, Wolf 0-4); Findlay 1-3 (Miller 1-1, Clark 0-1, Twining 0-1).
rebounds: Fremont Ross 24 (Dr. Starks 4, Jones 4); Findlay 31 (Gutting 11, Davidson 6).
turnovers: Fremont Ross 26, Findlay 17.
junior varsity: Findlay, 49-27.