Ed Heintschel collected his 600th career coaching victory Friday night before a sold-out home crowd of more than 1,800, as St. John’s Jesuit captured a 68-56 win over Central Catholic in Three Rivers Athletic Conference boys basketball.
Guards Austin Gardner and Anthony Glover paced the ninth-ranked Titans with 24 and 17 points, respectively, and 6-foot-8 Ohio State-bound senior forward Marc Loving added 11 points and 11 rebounds as St. John’s moved to 11-3 overall and 6-1 in the TRAC.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Heintschel said of the attention surrounding win No. 600. “The school did some nice things for me this week. It’s a milestone, but I don’t know that it’s any more important than some other big wins we’ve had along the way.
“When I finally get done with this thing [coaching], I think I’ll look back and appreciate it a little bit more. I’m more in the mode of getting this team ready for the season and making sure we’re improving.”
Loving will have to wait for another night to reach his own individual milestone as St. John’s career scoring leader. He still needs 15 points to pass Titans all-time leader B.J. Raymond, who scored 1,466 points from 2001-05.
“I’m just happy to be a part of this history with coach Heintschel,” said Gardner, who will play his college basketball at the University of Findlay. “It started back in 1979, and for it to come here with a sellout crowd against Central, there’s no better feeling.
“Our crowd was behind us with a lot of energy. You’re adrenalin is going, and you just want to keep going.”
Central (8-2, 4-2), which came in ranked fifth in the Ohio Division I poll, lost despite hitting 11 3-pointers in the game. The Irish were paced by 17 points from C.J. Bussey and 13 from DeShone Kizer.
“We didn’t figure on the 3-point shooting,” Heintschel said of Central’s perimeter game. “They really shot well. We were not totally ready for that, but I guess you’ve got to give up something.”
Heintschel, in his 34th season, became the 10th boys basketball coach in state history to reach 600 wins, and the first state coach to reach that milestone coaching exclusively at the Ohio D-I level.
“That’s a lot of wins,” said Central coach Jim Welling. “And, what’s more impressive, is that they’re all here [for St. John’s]. That’s remarkable that somebody can have that kind of longevity and do the things that he’s been able to do.
“It’s a great feat, he’s a class guy, and he works at it as hard as anybody. He’s probably going to coach for another 20 years.”
A see-saw battle early on, St. John’s shot out to a 9-3 lead before the Irish rallied to take a 14-11 lead on Kizer’s three-point play a minute into the second quarter.
The Titans responded to that Central wave with their own run, an 11-0 surge that pushed them to a 22-14 edge on Glover’s fast-break layup 5:23 before halftime. St. John’s turned that into a larger 18-4 stretch capped by Chris Stearns’ 10-footer along the left baseline for a 29-18 lead 2:24 before the break.
Down 33-24 entering the third quarter, the Irish staged their last serious charge of the game, getting within 34-32 on a Nate Harris layup with 5:14 to go in the third.
That was as close as Central would get, however, as Gardner tallied nine of his points in that quarter, which ended with St. John’s holding a 49-40 lead.
“We’ve had some pretty good point guards here, and Austin Gardner has moved near the top of the bunch,” Heintschel said. “He controls the tempo, makes it difficult for teams to press you, and he gets you into the offense against tough defense. He can hit the open shot, and he can go to the rim. He’s clever drawing fouls, and he’s worked so hard.”
The Titans’ largest lead of the game came with 2:04 remaining, when two of Gardner’s 11 made free throws in the game put St. John’s up 64-47.
“St. John’s is really solid,” Welling said. “Defensively, they took everything away from us, especially inside. They also played with hustle and desire.
“Our kids played hard, no question about that. But our execution continues to be our demise. We’re still really green, and everybody else is ahead.”
St. John’s was 21 of 44 from the field, 21 of 29 at the line, and outrebounded the taller Irish 37-24. Tyler Thompson added eight points and seven rebounds for the Titans.
“We hit an array of shots tonight, and that was very helpful,” Heintschel said. “And, our rebounding against a bigger team was important. Our guys stuck their noses in there and did a great job.”
Central was 19 of 47 from the field, including 11 of 25 from 3-point range, and hit seven of its 12 foul shots. Deontae Cole added nine points and backup guard D.J. Moody had seven points for the Irish.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.