By DAVE HANNEMAN
Findlay’s 63-57 Three Rivers Athletic Conference upset of Toledo Central Catholic on Tuesday was a statement win for the Trojans.
But even had the Trojans come up short of the No. 9-ranked Fighting Irish, FHS coach Jim Rucki was happy with the message his team was sending out.
“Whether we won or lost, I’m glad we came out with a little more fight in us than the last time we played them,” Rucki said.
“I wanted us to come out and compete harder than we did the last time and we did that. We battled, we made some shots, we made some key plays down the stretch … and we got the win.”
Just under a month ago, Findlay traveled to TCC and got toasted. Utilizing all of its considerable weapons, Central Catholic led 31-17 at the half, built the lead to 56-26 early in the fourth quarter and cruised to an easy 63-42 win.
With both teams out of the running for a TRAC championship and tournament pairings already set, Tuesday’s rematch was more about pride than anything else … and a bit more.
“We wanted revenge on them after getting beat pretty bad up there,” said Joseph Davidson, who capped his 15-point night with a game-clinching steal and 3-point play with 13 seconds left.
“We knew one of their good players, Keith Towbridge, was out, but that didn’t mean anything to us. They’re still a good team. But we came out, we played hard and we got the win. After the way we played up there, coming back like that means a lot to this team.”
Towbridge, a 6-foot-5 senior who averages 12 points and 9.5 rebounds a game was hit with two technical fouls in Central Catholic’s 66-57 overtime loss to Toledo Whitmer last Friday. TCC coach Jim Welling said Tuesday the school has not yet been notified if or when Towbridge would have to serve an OHSAA suspension mandated by a two-technical ejection, but he was holding his big man out regardless.
“Not having Towbrdige really hurt, especially on the rebounding side,” Welling said. “He’s been our go-to guy all season and now that piece is missing. From the very beginning we did not get into a very good rhythm. We had no flow with what we were trying to do, especially on the defensive end of the floor.”
Austin Gutting took advantage of Towbridge’s absence to go off for 18 points and grab 10 rebounds. An aggressive post player, Gutting was twice called for charging. The 6-3, 236-pound junior never hesitated late in the game, however, powering for a basket, getting fouled, and completing a 3-point play that put Findlay up 57-50 with 46 seconds on the clock.
“We had a couple of 3-point plays and made our free throws down the stretch,” Rucki said.
“Because we made our free throws (Findlay was 12 of 16 in the fourth quarter, 21 of 26 for the game) I don’t think there was one time in the final minute-and-a-half where they got the ball when it was a one-possession game.”
Findlay also got 12-point games from junior point guard Michael Clark and freshman sharp-shooter Grant McKinniss.
Clark’s contributions to Findlay’s wins were expected; McKinniss’s were not.
“It all starts with Mike Clark. He’s the brains, he’s the quarterback, he’s the guy who makes their engine run,” Welling said.
“The kid who killed us was No. 25 (McKinniss). We didn’t even know who that kid is. He didn’t play against us last time.
“All of a sudden he makes two 3s. All right, that’s fine, he can shoot it. Now let’s make sure he doesn’t get two more. So what happens? He gets two more.”
Two 3-pointers by McKinniss helped Findlay open an 18-11 lead in the first quarter. But his last two were deadly.
Two deep and too talented to stay down for long, Central Catholic rallied from an 11-point deficit to forge 40-40, 43-43 and 45-4 ties in the fourth quarter. Davidson then scored on an inside feed from Gutting and McKinniss buried his fourth trey, giving Findlay the cushion it needed.
“(McKinniss) has played a lot of minutes the last two games and he’s hit six 3s,” Rucki said. “That’s big because it changes the way defenses have to play us. It opens things up and gives us a different dimension.”
Adam Twining also hit two 3s early to help Findlay get off to a good start. But the 6-3 junior guard sprained an ankle in the third quarter. Twining did not return and it is uncertain if he will be available Friday when Findlay (13-8, 8-5 TRAC) hosts Lima Senior (7-14, 4-9) in its final regular season game.
C.J. Bussey scored 17 points, DeShone Kizer 16 and Deontae Cole 11 for Central Catholic (17-4, 9-4 TRAC).
In Tuesday’s opener, Central Catholic outscored Findlay 20-4 in the fourth quarter to beat the FHS junior varsity 49-37. Joey Hammond had 13 points for Findlay (15-6, 9-4).
TOLEDO CENTRAL CATHOLIC (17-4, 9-4)
Moody 2-10 0-0 5, Bussey 7-10 1-1 17, Kizer 6-12 3-5 16, Harris 2-2 1-2 5, Cole 3-6 3-4 11, Winters 0-0 0-0 0, Vetter 0-0 0-1 0, Pacer 1-3 0-0 3. TOTALS: 21-43 8-13—57.
FINDLAY (13-8, 8-5)
Miller 0-1 -0 0, Clark 2-5 6-8 12, Twining 2-4 0-0 6, Davidson 4-8 7-9 15, Gutting 5-7 8-9 18, McKinnis 4-6 0-0 12, Niswander 0-0 0-0 0, Kairys 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 17-31 21-26—63.
Tol. Central Catholic 11 9 16 21 — 57
Findlay 18 7 14 24 — 63
3-Point GOALS: Toledo Central Catholic 7-15 (Moody 1-2, Pacer 1-3, Bussey 2-5, Kizer 1-2, Cole 2-3); Findlay 8-14 (Miller 0-1, Clark 2-5, Twining 2-2, McKinnis 4-6).
rebounds: Toledo Central Catholic 18 (Moody 5, Harris 4); Findlay 26 (Gutting 10, Davidson 5).
turnovers: Toledo Central Catholic 12, Findlay 18.
junior varsity: Toledo Central Catholic, 49-37.