By Robb Hemmelgarn
ST. MARYS -- It was a year ago this week when St. Marys' Tom Burke tied the school record for three-pointers made in a game, as he drained six long balls in the Roughriders' win at Sidney High School.
Last night, the senior worked his distance-launching magic once again, surpassing the record with seven bombs against the Lehman Cavaliers at McBroom Gymnasium. Burke helped push his team to 5-0 on the season with a game-high 26 points in their 67-53 win.
"If there is an open shot, Tom has the green light to take it -- you will never hear me getting on him for taking a good shot no matter where it is," commented Roughrider head coach Josh Leslie. "He had a lot of good looks at the basket tonight and fortunately most of them fell."
In the opening stanza, the veteran Roughriders blew out to an early 12-point lead before Lehman seemed to get in any sort of rhythm. Both squads exchanged buckets in the final 2:30 of the first period, however the Roughriders were ahead 21-9, looking to bury the Cavaliers even deeper in the second quarter.
A quick bucket by the visitors following a St. Marys turnover to begin the period quickly cut the lead to 10 points. Lehman labored the rest of the half, trying to pull back into it, but the closest it came was eight points on two different occasions. Three different times the visitors pulled within single digits, only to have the Roughriders answer with a long ball -- twice by Burke and once by senior Wes Clark. The two teams went to the locker room at halftime with St. Marys ahead by only nine points, 35-26.
"We wanted to come out and attack their zone and get in the gaps," remarked Leslie. "I didn't feel like we did a good job with that at the end of the first half. Fortunately for us, we had a couple of guys that were able to make some big threes."
Any hopes of gaining momentum for Lehman to begin the third stanza were soon dashed, as it turned the ball over five times in the opening couple of minutes. The Roughriders pushed their lead to as many as 22 points with a physical and aggressive defense.
The only glimmer of hope for Lehman came in the closing minute of the third quarter when senior Derek Horstman pumped in seven consecutive points to cut the Roughrider advantage to 15 points. Nick Yahl closed the quarter with a jump shot, and the rest of the contest was never in doubt.
"We started the third quarter with three straight turnovers and it really hurt us," commented Cavalier head coach Mike Piatt. "St. Marys is a great defensive team and they are very fast, but I think our turnovers were self-inflicted. We just didn't take care of the ball well."
Although St. Marys was outscored 14-11 in the fourth period, the Roughriders held on for the 67-53 victory, securing their unblemished mark at 5-0.
"Overall I'm happy with things tonight, but there's always room for improvement," Leslie pointed out. "Rebounding is always a concern for us and we tell the kids that they need to get a body on the players who go to the basket. If we don't do that, it would really be a nightmare for us later on in the season."
The Roughriders were led by Burke's 26 points, while senior Deron Steinke picked up six rebounds. St. Marys will travel to Ottawa-Glandorf on Friday night for a Western Buckeye League showdown.
Lehman (2-6 overall) was led in scoring by freshman Kyle Corbin's 14 points and also paced by his 10 rebounds.