City League champion Bowsher took advantage of a lengthy first-half scoring drought by St. John’s Jesuit and captured its first boys basketball district title in school history Saturday night, taking a 63-48 win in the Division I final at Savage Arena.
Aundre Kizer led the eighth-ranked Rebels (24-2) with 23 points, Dajuan King had 15, and Cameron White added 11.
“The group of seniors we have is amazing,” said fifth-year coach Joe Guerrero, who won his first district title in 27 years as a head coach. “They’ve led all year, and they have said they wanted to be playing their best basketball at the end of the year. I think we’re playing pretty good right now.”
St. John’s hit just four of its 23 first-half shots and went scoreless over the final 11 minutes before halftime, which came with the Rebels up 17-10.
“Coach has been telling us all year that if we play defense we can beat anybody,” Bowsher’s district player of the year Nate Allen said. “We wanted to step up to the plate and play some great defense tonight.
“This is a dream season so far, but we’re still on a mission. This is good, but we’re looking for something great.”
Bowsher will play Mansfield Senior (18-7) in a regional semifinal Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Savage Arena. The Tygers advanced by beating Northern Lakes League co-champion Perrysburg 43-29 in Saturday’s district final at Bowling Green’s Stroh Center.
The up-tempo Rebels had trouble getting on track early on, missing eight of their first nine shots as St. John’s built a 10-2 lead.
But Bowsher found a little offensive rhythm to pull within 10-6 by quarter’s end and, most importantly, clamped down defensively to cause a St. John’s offensive drought that rivaled any in Titan coach Ed Heintschel’s 35-year career.
After St. John’s sophomore Gabe Kynard hit a 3-pointer with 3:02 left in the first quarter, the Titans committed seven turnovers and missed their next 14 shots to close the half without another point while Bowsher took a 17-10 lead to the break.
“We had some guys in foul trouble, but we just got into a dribbling deal with guys not moving, and it was just a nightmare,” Heintschel said. “I was very impressed with Bowsher’s defense. While we didn’t do some things, they worked hard on defense and took stuff away from us.
“I think they’ll represent the district well, and I feel good for Joe. He and I are old east side boys, and years ago used to play under the [Anthony Wayne] bridge. Good luck to the Rebels.”
St. John’s scoreless stretch extended to the 7:25 mark of the third quarter (11:35 total time), when Parker Ernsthausen (18 points, 9 rebounds) finally broke the ice with an inside bucket.
The success on defense clearly inflated the Rebels’ confidence. Bowsher outscored St. John’s 18-12 in the third quarter to take a 35-22 edge to the fourth.
“Both teams shot really poor at the beginning of the game, but I thought our defense in the second quarter was really amazing,” Guerrero said. “We’ve been maligned about our defense, but I think we can play good defense. We’re excited to be [in regionals], and we’re looking forward to it.”
Bowsher pushed its lead to 44-29 on a Kizer 3-pointer with 5:06 remaining in the game.
“It feels real good,” Kizer said. “This is something that nobody expected but us. We’re going to try to keep this going.
“I didn’t know until halftime that we held them scoreless the whole second quarter. We’ve never played defense like that before. That boosted our confidence to a level we never had before.”
St. John’s senior court leader Anthony Glover, Jr., the leading scorer (18.1 average) in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, did not score in the game until hitting a 3-pointer with 1:45 left in the third quarter. He finished with 10 points. The Titans also got 14 points from Kynard.
“I think we had more intensity than them tonight,” King said. “This is amazing. But the goal’s not finished. We want to go down to Columbus.”
Bowsher was 17 of 44 (39 percent) from the field, 23 of 33 (70 percent) from the line, and forced 15 Titan turnovers while committing 11.
St. John’s was 17 of 54 (32 percent) from the field, 10 of 14 (71 percent) at the line, and outrebounded the Rebels 37-33.