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02-13-04: St. Marys wins share of WBL title


ST. MARYS — St. Marys was able to claim its second Western Buckeye League championship in the past three seasons with a thrilling 59-50 victory over Lima Bath.
Both squads entered last night’s contest with identical 7-1 league marks, but it was the Roughriders who were able to hold on for the win despite surrendering a 17-point first-half lead.
The loss ended Bath’s title hopes while Ottawa-Glandorf was able to secure a share of the WBL title with a 44-37 win over Defiance.
The fact that the Titans could gain a share of the title didn’t spoil any of the excitement at McBroom Gymnasium last night, because right as the final horn sounded a sea of Roughrider fans poured on to the floor to celebrate the victory.
“It’s awesome, Bath is such a great team and we just tried to come out here and tried our hardest, it was just a good game with two WBL schools going at it, and I’m just excited, it’s awesome,” said Haley Fannon, the Roughriders point guard.
St. Marys looked as if it might run away with the game as it built a 29-12 first-half lead thanks to a torrid shooting pace.
The Roughriders made 11 of their first 13 shots, and wound up making 76 percent (13-of-17) of their shots in the first half.
“We had them at 72 percent, if they can shoot any better than that I’d like to know when it was,” said Bath coach Greg Mauk.
Kerri Imwalle was a big part of that first half, as the St. Marys center made all four of her first half shots for 10 points at the break.
She also gave the ’Riders a big momentum boost to end the half. Amy Simindinger scored on a short jumper with less than 15 seconds to play to pull Bath within single digits, but Imwalle hit a jumper of her own at the buzzer to send St. Marys into the break with a 33-22 lead.
Imwalle didn’t start the second half because St. Marys coach Bruce Brown said he wanted a quicker lineup to try and defend Bath, but it didn’t slow down Wildcats who went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 33-29.
“We were concerned about them coming out in the second half and getting hot from three-point range and making a run on us, which obviously happened and the strategy backfired because they made a run anyway,” Brown said.
It didn’t take Brown long to go back to the formula that worked in the first half, as Imwalle who finished with 15 points, was reinserted at the 5:01 mark in the third.
Bath’s 2-3 zone defense was geared to shut down Haines, but with Imwalle scoring at will in the post, it forced Bath to make some defensive adjustments.
“She hurt us in the first half, so we went to a different defense in the second half to try and take her away, and that’s what gave Fannon some shots and she was able to hit on us,” Mauk said.
A Mary Simindinger three-pointer tied the game at 37-apiece late in the third, but that’s when Fannon stepped up with a big three-pointer to regain the lead.
Mary Simindinger once again hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 42-42, this time in the fourth quarter, and once again it was Fannon with an immediate answer with a three-pointer of her own to put St. Marys back on top 45-42.
Haines then sank a pair of free throws and scored a bucket on a loose ball to extend the Roughriders’ lead to 49-42.
Fannon finished with 14 points while connecting on 4-of-5 field goals from behind the three-point arc.
Bath got as close as 51-47 on a Amanda Houchin three-pointer with 1:03 left, but Haines made 8-of-8 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
“Krissy Haines was big down the stretch and she hit 10 foul shots in a row, I mean how are you going to stop that,” Mauk said. “We were telling them who we didn’t want to foul and they just did a good job getting the ball in Haines’ hands, and then when the clock got low late in the game we had no choice but to foul who had the ball at that point.
“I was really proud of the effort of our girls, we turned the ball over four times in a really hard fought ball game,” Mauk added. “I thought we really did some good things on the offensive end of the floor, but they had some players that really stepped up and hit some big shots. It seemed like every time we get right back to where it was even or really close, Fannon would bang a three on us.”
St. Marys improves to 16-1 on the season while Bath falls to 14-4.
“We knew the second half was going to come down to the wire, I was extremely happy with the way the girls responded, they didn’t panic when they came back and tied us, they stay focused on things and that’s two weeks in a row we were able to do that,” Brown said. “They definitely deserve the WBL championship. You’re not going to find a group of kids that listen more, work harder and were more fun to coach.”
Haines finished with 20 points and six rebounds for St. Marys, while Mary Simindinger finished with 19 points and Houchin 15 points for Bath.
The Roughriders return to action Tuesday when they host Marion Local.


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