In the final Toledo appearance of Ohio State-bound standout William Buford and the rest of Libbey's veteran-filled roster, the Cowboys bade farewell to Savage Hall last night with an easy 61-39 victory over St. John's Jesuit before a crowd of 3,200 in the City League championship game.
Libbey's consecutive CL titles are the first for the school since 1969 and '70, and this repeat mission was never really in doubt, even with the foul trouble that limited Buford to less than 20 minutes.
It was a hurdle the Cowboys' supporting cast cleared with room to spare.
Buford topped Libbey with 15 points, more than eight below his average, and seven rebounds.
Third-year senior starters Brad Sandridge (13 points, four rebounds) and Julius Wells (six points, six boards) picked up the slack, as did Tony Brown and Lance Jones (eight points apiece), and Brad Burton (seven).
Veteran coach Leroy Bates' Libbey team (18-2), ranked No. 4 in the final Division II state poll, now seeks its next goal - winning a D-II state title in the Cowboys' first appearance outside of Ohio's big-school division.
After an emotional start which nearly led to an on-court altercation, Libbey pulled away steadily as St. John's struggled offensively.
Buford and St. John's 6-7 junior forward Tim Simmons were kept apart by officials and teammates near mid-court just 3:54 into the game after some physical play took place near the lane. A technical foul was called on Burton for leaving the bench area.
"It was just high emotions on both squads," Bates said. "I think the referees did a fantastic job of keeping everything calm, and they were fair in their assessment of what needed to be done.
"We didn't want to start out slow like we had been, and I think they picked it up well enough at the beginning. We knew it was going to be a physical game, but the guys didn't back down. They got a lot more confidence as the game went on."
Ahead 11-7 after one quarter, the Cowboys continued what became an 18-4 run that closed on Sandridge's 15-footer for a 27-11 edge 1:20 before halftime.
St. John's (14-6), down 27-16 at the break, saw a ray of hope midway in the third quarter when Buford picked up his third and fourth fouls with 4:34 and
4:14 left in the quarter and Libbey up 33-19.
But, with their star on the bench, the Cowboys not only held the lead but expanded it.
"Coach Bates just told me I was the next person to run the team," Brown said, "so I just ran it and did what I had to do. He told us, don't let up on them. Stay tough on them until the game was over with."
Thanks to 13-of-16 shooting from the field after halftime, Libbey ran away from the Titans, who were 2-for-10 to start the second half.
"We've got more than one weapon," Burton said. "When Will goes out, we know we need to step up and do what we've got to do. It's all about team. Like coach Bates told us, one man don't stop the show."
The lead grew to as many as 28 points (60-32), that on a
Sandridge layup on a feed from Buford with 2:00 left in the game.
"Everybody on the court played good defense," Sandridge said. "That's the main thing."
Libbey was 24 of 41 (59 percent) from the field, 13 of 18 from the line, and outrebounded St. John's 27-24.
The Titans were 14 of 41 (34 percent) from the field and 6 of 13 from the line.
Freshman point guard Cheatham Norrils, who mixed in three 3-pointers, topped the Titans with 10 points. Jay Springs and Andrew Schaetzke added six apiece.
"We did not need them to get out in transition," Titans coach Ed Heintschel said. "They do it by stealing the ball, and on shots that go in the basket, and both of those things happened too frequently tonight.
"They've got talent, they've got depth, and I told Leroy that playing without William will probably help them down the road, if they get in a situation with fouls."
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