By DAVE HANNEMAN
Jim Rucki basketball teams — first at Rocky River, now at Findlay High — have always been known for defense.
This one just might be taking the grunt side of the game to a new level.
“We could be the best defensive team I’ve coached,” Rucki said Friday after the Trojans beat Fremont Ross 58-36 in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference matchup at the FHS Gymnasium.
“This is the most active team I’ve had since I’ve been here as far as being active, getting in the gaps, helping and recovering. We don’t have that big guy that, you know, erases mistakes. That hurts us a little bit against size. But we have good kids who have bought into that idea of working hard on defense every possession, and when you can put five guys out there doing that you can do some really good things.”
Findlay improved to 12-3 overall and 7-2 in the TRAC. Fremont Ross fell to 8-6, 3-5 in the league.
Mark Gedeon knows good defense when he sees it, because its been a key component in his program as well.
“I always thought Findlay played great defense. This team, their intensity level is definitely a notch up from where it was last year,” said Gedeon, who has churned out over 220 wins during his 19-year career at Fremont Ross.
“It’s not just quickness. It’s position, it’s the ability to take a charge, it’s understanding the game plan, it’s how to cheat plays, it’s anticipating passes …. You watch their kids when they’re in their stances. They have great shell drops, they rotate very well. They understand the defensive concepts and when have five guys out there doing that, you’re a very tough team to go against.”
Findlay opened a 13-7 lead on Grant Niswander’s 3-pointer and Adam Twining’s baseline drive and slam off a nice back-door feed from Austin Gutting.
Michael Clark drained a 3-pointer to open the second quarter and Niswander converted a Braden Miller steal into a lay-up. Back-to-back basket by Gutting put Findlay up 26-14 with 2:13 left in the first half and pretty much gave the Trojans the cushion they needed.
Niswander triggered a an aggressive, trapping defensive effort that produced 11 Fremont Ross turnovers in the first half. The junior guard had five steals in the first half, and eight for the game.
Niswander, who’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds, also went head-up with Fremont Ross forward, Jarvis Jones, who stands 6-5 and outweighed Niswander by a quarter-pounder or two.
“You can be fast on the football field. But quickness is better in basketball,” said Niswander, who was a receiver on the football team last fall.
“It’s a combination of both (quickness and anticipation). Sometimes I miss. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I get yelled at, but when it comes down to it I see it and I go after it.”
“I thought we were really active and had them on their heels,” Rucki said.
“Grant was especially active. He was tenacious going after the ball.”
Gutting had two shots blocked in the first half, but continued to attack the basket.
The senior center finished with 22 points and five rebounds, with 14 of those points coming in the second half. In addition to his eight steals, Niswander scored seven points and had a team-high six rebounds.
Findlay also got excellent balance, with Miller, Twining and Clark scoring eight points each. Miller scored six of his total in the fourth quarter, including a key 3-pointer from the right corner with 4:13 to play. It triggered a 14-5 game-ending run after Fremont Ross had trimmed the deficit to 42-31 early in the fourth quarter.
Fremont Ross got an excellent all-around game from Jack Gedeon, a 6-4 senior guard who led the Little Giants with 13 points and eight rebounds. Findlay limited Fremont’s big three of Jones, 6-4 forward Dylan Jagodzinski and 6-3 center Drew Solander to 12 combined points and a total of five rebounds.
In Friday’s opening game, Findlay raced to a 34-11 lead at the half and cruised to a 63-38 win over Fremont’s reserves. Kyle Nunn scored 15 points, Joey Hammond 13 and Chaze Proehl and Drew Hapner nine each for Findlay, 14-1 overall and 9-0 against TRAC teams.
Steven Blogett led Fremont Ross (7-7, 2-6) with 10 points.
FREMONT ROSS (8-6, 3-5)
McConnell 2-3 0-0 6, Gedeon 5-8 2-2 13, Jagodzinski1-1 0-0 2, Jones 1-5 0-0 2, Solander 3-6 2-2 8, Slick 1-1 0-0 2, Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Liggin 0-1 0-0 0, Hampton 0-2 0-0 0, Wright 1-5 0-0 3, Simms 0-0 0-0 0, Chudzinski 0-3 0-0 0. TOTALS: 14-35 4-4—36.
findlay (12-3, 7-2)
B. Miller 3-3 0-0 8, Niswander 3-4 0-0 7, Clark 3-7 0-0 8, Twining 4-13, 0-0 8, Gutting 8-13 6-7 22, McKinnis 1-1 0-0 3, Gobrecht 0-2 0-0 0, Kairys 0-0 0-0 0, Nunn 0-0 0-0 0, Buford 1-1 0-0 2, Hammond 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 23-42 6-7—58.
Fremont Ross 9 10 10 7 — 36
Findlay 13 15 14 16 — 58
3-Point GOALS: Fremont Ross 4-12 (McConnell 2-3, Gedeon 1-2, Liggins 0-1, Hampton 0-1, Wright 1-3, Chudzinski 0-1, Johnson 0-1); Findlay 6-9 (B. Miller 2-2, Niswander 1-2, Clark 2-3, Twining 0-1, McKInniss 1-1).
REBOUNDS: Fremont Ross 22 (Gedeon 8); Findlay 23 (Niswander 6, Gutting 5).
TURNOVERS: Fremont Ross 19, Findlay 13.
junior varsity: Findlay, 63-38.