By SCOTT COTTOS
TIFFIN — While offense may come and go, defense can be a constant.
So says the old basketball-coaching axiom.
And so New Riegel proved Saturday night in a 48-30 Division IV sectional-final victory over Norwalk St. Paul at Columbian High School.
It certainly wasn’t the Blue Jackets’ night at the offensive end, but defensive work that rarely lets them down was good to them once more.
The Blue Jackets allowed the Flyers just 11 baskets and played a part in their 31 turnovers while improving to 20-2 and punching their ticket to next Thursday’s district semifinals at Shelby. New Riegel will face Buckeye Central (9-12) in an 8 p.m. contest.
“We worked on our defense all week, maybe at the expense of our ballhandling,” said Blue Jackets coach Steve Lucius, whose club committed 22 miscues of its own. “I thought our defense was stellar. We worked real hard on defense for about the last six days. I’m proud of our defense. Our kids are taking some pride in it right now, I think. They’re doing a good job talking a little bit more, matching up. I like our defense.”
New Riegel brought full-court pressure from the get-go, which helped them surge to a 15-7 lead through one quarter.
“The press definitely helped in the beginning because it got us kind of fired up and moving our feet,” said junior point guard Kara Scherger, who paced New Riegel with 18 points, eight of which came in the first period. “I think it flustered them.”
St. Paul coach Vicky Mahl said her team saw from the Blue Jackets just what it expected.
“We knew it would tough, press-wise,” said Mahl, whose squad ended the season at 15-8. “We did some good things against it and then we had some unforced errors. They’re a good team.”
What was not good for New Riegel most of the night was its offensive execution.
“Some credit to them. Some of it, maybe, nine days off (since its last game). Maybe some of it tournament jitters,” Lucius said. “Our decision-making was kind of shaky at times. But we got a little better in the second half.”
Going to the basket was a key in that regard.
“A big key to winning this game was penetrating,” Scherger said. “I knew as soon as I would get by them, they would either foul or I would get a layup. (Lucius) just kept telling me to penetrate, penetrate. That was a big key.”
Scherger cashed in on 10 of 12 free throws, including her first nine. As a team, the Blue Jackets were 16 of 22, while the Flyers were 7 of 11.
Hailey Theis hit back-to-back baskets to help New Riegel finish the first half with a 9-3 spurt that made for a 28-15 halftime advantage. Seven Scherger points in the third period helped the Blue Jackets take a 42-33 lead into the fourth period.
Scherger added six assists and six steals to her night’s work. Taylor Kirian added 10 points for New Riegel, while Taylor Arbogast tallied nine points, nine rebounds and seven steals. Lauren Ladd latched onto five rebounds.
Lydia Ott scored 10 points and Caitlin Good added seven for St. Paul.
st. paul (30)
Stoll 0-2—2, Painley 1-0—2, Nickoli 2-0—4, Good 3-0—7, Ott 4-2—10, Moore 0-0—0, Lukasko 0-0—0, Chandler 0-2—2, Roth 1-1—3. TOTALS: 11-38 7-11 — 30.
new riegel (48)
Bouillon 0-0—0. Li. Zoeller 0-0—0, La. Zoeller 0-0—0, Arbogast 3-3—9, Kirian 4-2-10, Scherger 4-10—18, Ladd 2-1—5, Theis 2-0—4, Noftz 1-0—2. TOTALS: 16-43 16-22 — 48.
St. Paul 7 8 8 7 — 30
New Riegel 15 13 14 6 — 48
3-Point GOALS: St. Paul 1-7 (Good); New Riegel 0-3.
rebounds: St. Paul 24; New Riegel 23 (Arbogast 9).
TURNOVERS: St. Paul 31; New Riegel 22