By DAVE HANNEMAN
TOLEDO — Findlay was still digging out Friday night.
This time it wasn’t an Arctic Clipper that buried the Trojans.
Toledo St. John’s raced to a 15-4 lead, twice pushed the margin to 16 points in the second quarter, and weathered a gutsy Findlay comeback down the stretch to beat the Trojans 59-48 in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference battle of league leaders Friday at St. John’s Arena.
St. John’s won its eighth straight, improved to 8-2 overall, and remained unbeaten (5-0) in TRAC play heading into next Friday’s game at Toledo Central Catholic.
Findlay fell to 7-2 overall, 4-1 in the TRAC.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket early on, and a lot of times that’s just what it comes down to,” said FHS coach Jim Rucki.
“(St. John’s) spaced the floor really well, they hit the open guys, and they have multiple guys who can knock down jumpers.
“That’s why they’re a good team.”
Findlay ate away at a 31-15 halftime deficit, outscoring St. John’s 23-13 in the third quarter behind eight points by Grant Niswander, seven from Adam Twining and five by Austin Gutting.
A free throw by Twining trimmed the gap to 45-40 with 6:59 left in the fourth quarter. Gutting then fed the 6-foot-3 senior wing on a backdoor cut and Findlay was within three.
Findlay was still down four (50-46) after baskets by Twining and Gutting, and had a chance to get closer when Braden Miller came up with a steal. St. John’s standout Anthony Glover Jr, stole the ball back, though, and hit both ends of a one-and-one with 1:13 on the clock.
St. John’s converted just 13 of 21 free throws in the fourth quarter and 18 of 29 overall. But the Titans made enough in the final minute to keep Findlay at bay.
“When we missed some free throws, that would have been a good time to lose composure and fold up ‘cause that’s a seasoned team and Jim (Rucki) does a great job with them,” said St. John’s coach Ed Heintschel.
“Some teams might have laid down and not finished. I thought we finished the game well.”
Glover, who signed a national letter of intent with Chicago State in November, led all scorers with 22 points. The 6-1 guard loosened the Findlay defense with two 3-pointers in the first five minutes, and scored four points during a second-quarter run that put St. John’s up 31-15 at the half.
But it was players less accustomed to the headlines that made a big difference for the Titans.
Parker Ernsthausen, a 6-9 senior forward, scored 11 points and grabbed eight of his nine rebounds in the second half. Austin Moore came off the bench to score 10 points, including a ‘2’ and ‘3’ back-to-back in the third quarter to curtail a 10-2 Findlay rally.
“We were wilting, and Austin (Moore) hit that 8-footer from the side. I thought that righted us a little bit,” said Heintschel, who notched his 617th career win, all at St. John’s.
Twining scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds for Findlay. Niswander added 10 points and Gutting nine points and 11 rebounds.
Findlay, which faces unbeaten Defiance (8-0) today, made 18 of 35 2-point attempts, but struggled from both 3-point range (3-15) and the free-throw line (3-10). St. John’s also outrebounded the Trojans, 35-26.
“We battled back in the second half. That’s one of the positives we can take away from this game,” Rucki said.
“We showed signs of being able to do some good things tonight.”
Findlay’s junior varsity improved to 9-0 overall and 5-0 against TRAC teams by rallying from a 26-18 halftime deficit to beat St. John’s reserves 43-42. Trey Buford and Kyle Nunn hit key fourth-quarter 3-pointers and Joey Hammond hit two driving lay-ups and a go-ahead free throw with 3.6 seconds on the clock.
Joey Hammond finished with 13 points. Nunn and Grant McKinnis each had eight.
FINDLAY (7-2, 4-1)
B. Miller 0-0—0, Niswander 4-1—10, Clark 3-0—8, Twining 10-1—21, Gutting 4-1—9, McKinnis 0-0–0, Gobrecht 0-0—0, Kairys 0-0—0, C. Miller 0-0—0. TOTALS: 21-48 3-10 — 48.
TOLEDO ST. JOHN’S (8-2, 5-0)
Glover 6-8—22, Kynard 2-3–9, Walsh 1-0—2, Ernsthausen 3-5—11, Dippman 1-0—3, Celis 1-0—2, Copeland 0-0—0, DeMarco 1-0—2, Moore 3-2—10. TOTALS: 18-38 18-29 — 59.
Findlay 6 9 23 10 — 48
Toledo St. John’s 17 14 13 15 — 59
3-Point GOALS: Findlay 3-15 (Clark 2, Niswander); Toledo St. John’s 5-15 (Glover 2, Moore 2, Dippman).
rebounds: Findlay 26 (Gutting 11, Twining 6); Toledo St. John’s 35 (Ernsthausen 9, Walsh 7).
turnovers: Findlay 8; Toledo St. John’s 10.
junior varsity: Findlay, 43-42.