THE BLADE/ERIC SUMBERG Enlarge | Buy This Photo
THE BLADE/ERIC SUMBERG Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Included among its abundant array of basketball talents, top-ranked Ohio powerhouse Lakewood St. Edward proved yesterday at Savage Hall it can also dominate from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Eagles (25-0) ended Findlay's memorable tournament run, dealing the Trojans a death by 3s in a 66-50 Division I boys regional championship game.
St. Edward, ranked No. 8 nationally by USA Today, features one of the country's top players in Delvon Roe, one of the Eagles' ominous bookend 6-foot-8 junior forwards along with Tom Pritchard.
Faced with that challenge, Findlay coach Jim Rucki opted for a pack-it-inside defensive scheme. The risk was leaving his Trojans (20-4) vulnerable on the perimeter.
And they were.
The Eagles, who never trailed, connected on 9-of-15 3-point shots in the first half alone, and used a 12-4 run in the final 3:39 before halftime to take control of what had been a close game.
"I made a decision that we had to protect from the inside out and make them shoot the ball [from the perimeter]," Rucki said. "I think that's the way to go, and I would do it again.
"If we get out [on perimeter] and deny hard, they're going to score inside. If we sit inside, they might miss those shots. You have to take that chance. We needed them to not have a very good shooting day, and that didn't happen."
Ahead just 22-20 after Findlay sophomore point guard Luke Kraus (14 points) netted an 18-foot jumper 3:54 before halftime, St. Edward answered by hitting its next four 3-pointers before the break.
"The second quarter was obviously the key to the game," Eagles coach Eric Flannery said, "because Findlay's a team that's going to try to kill some time and try to make you play defense, and then look for the perimeter shot. We did a great job of getting out on their shooters."
Kyle Hubbard and Roe delivered the first pair of triples, and sharpshooting 6-4 senior guard Matt Salay added the last two as St. Edward took a 34-24 edge to the third quarter.
"We were letting [Hubbard and Roe] have that," Rucki said. "We took our chances and they hit 'em. That kind of broke our back. If those guys are going to step out and hit that, there's not a whole lot we can do.
"We didn't want to allow [Salay] to have those looks. But we had a couple times where we didn't get back in transition quickly enough to find him."
Salay was the chief beneficiary of Findlay's strategy. He took just eight shots in the game, all in the first half and all from beyond the arc. He hit on six of them for 18 points.
"If they're going to force us out to the perimeter, we have to make them pay for it," Salay said. "That's what we did. The more I get to shoot, the happier I am. If I make my shots and then [Roe and Pritchard] get open, that's good for our team."
After halftime, having bought a little more room inside, Roe and St. Edward continued its three-at-a-time output.
Roe (19 points, 11 rebounds) - who has narrowed his college basketball choices to North Carolina, Kansas, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan - began the third quarter with a conventional three-point play 14 seconds in.
When Hubbard converted another three-point play off a steal and layup 57 seconds later, the Eagles had a commanding 42-26 advanatage.
"When you're ranked No. 1, you obviously have a lot of options," Flannery said. "You're not a one-man show.
"One of the bigger misconceptions, if you haven't seen us play, is you hear about Delvon Roe, but you don't hear about the seven or eight other guys on this team that all contribute."
Greater Buckeye Conference champion Findlay - which also got 12 points and six rebounds from Mac Cloud plus eight points from Jess Wohl - got no closer than 11 thereafter.
"I thought we shot too quickly sometimes," said Rucki, whose Trojans had knocked off Mansfield Senior and St. John's Jesuit to get to this point.
"But we've been playing confidently [lately] and that's been the key to us getting here."
The loss ended the Trojans' deepest tournament run in 59 years, when the 1948 Findlay squad won the Class A (big school) state championship. Findlay's last regional appearance ended in a semifinal loss to Newark in 1981.
"As a team we had big dreams at the beginning of the season," Wohl said. "Our goals were to win the league and make it deep into the playoffs. We accomplished part of that. We wanted to make it farther, but we had a great season."
Findlay was 17-of-43 (40 percent) from the field, including 6-of-18 on 3-pointers, and 10-of-19 (53 percent) from the line.
St. Edward was 22-of-48 (46 percent) from the field, including 10-of-18 on 3-pointers. The Eagles were 12-of-17 (71 percent) from the line, and outrebounded the Trojans 38-21. Hubbard added 10 points and Pritchard nine points and 10 boards.
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