For the second straight year St. John's Jesuit met Lima Senior in a Division I regional basketball semifinal at Savage Arena and, except for some new faces in each lineup last night, this game pretty much followed the 2009 script.
St. John's (19-4) jumped to an early lead and never trailed in rolling to a 53-32 victory before a crowd of more than 3,500.
The Titans, who shook off a two-game losing skid to close the regular season, are one win from a second straight trip to the state semifinals and seventh overall under 31st-year head coach Ed Heintschel, whose team beat Lima Senior 75-58 here last year.
St. John's will meet Massillon Jackson (22-2) for the regional championship at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the University of Akron's James A. Rhodes Arena. Jackson advanced by edging Akron East 58-56 last night at Rhodes Arena.
A big part of the Titans' success in their past three tournament games has been 6-4 junior forward Zach Steinmetz, a burly hustler better known for his football talent.
Inserted for usual starter Trent Brodbeck - who was slowed by the flu for last week's district games against rivals St. Francis de Sales and Central Catholic - Steinmetz has made the most of his first three starts of the season.
In this one, he contributed 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. He also added two steals without committing a turnover.
"Zach got some boards tonight," Heintschel said, "and that was a very physical environment to get 'em. He played like a real man tonight.
"I'm real happy for him. He's been patient. He and I tangle a little bit, but there's a mutual respect there and he's responded very well."
This work by Steinmetz followed his 11-point, 13-rebound effort in a 45-37 win over St. Francis, and a five-point, six-board line in St. John's 49-41 district final win over City League champion Central last Saturday.
"I always looked up to these guys [Titan players] when I was a little kid, and now it's me out there," Steinmetz said. "I just want to cherish every single moment because I know it'll go by real fast.
"We worked on [rebounding] all day in practice, and how we were going to have to be more physical than they are. We did a good job on defense of not letting them get second-chance buckets. That helped a lot."
His work more than complemented the output from two more usual Titan suspects - senior guard Jay Springs (15 points, nine rebounds) and 6-foot-7 freshman forward Marc Loving (14 points, five rebounds).
The Titans jumped out to a 14-2 lead in the game.
Loving sparked that early surge, scoring nine of the Titans' first 14 points.
"We thought that was really important because they would come out with a lot of emotion because of last year's game, to prove a point," Heintschel said of the 14-2 lead. "We talked a whole lot about getting off to a strong start, and we did."
Down 17-5 entering the second quarter, Lima Senior (15-10) used a 9-4 spurt to get within 23-14 on a drive by Anton Hutchins (15 points) with 1:55 left in the half.
But St. John's ended the half with Springs hitting a 3-pointer and Steinmetz scoring on a feed from Springs for a 28-14 edge at the break.
When the Titans opened the third quarter with a 3-pointers from senior guard T.J. Gillespie (seven points), they owned a 17-point lead and never looked back. The Spartans, who also got 11 points from Tyler White never got closer than 13 from there.
Lima Senior was doomed by poor shooting, hitting just 11-of-48 (23 percent) from the field and 7-of-14 from the line. The Spartans were outrebounded 45-27.
St. John's was 16-of-42 (38 percent) from the field and 16-of-27 from the line.
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