By Gary R. Rasberry
LIMA -- St. Marys head coach Josh Leslie was succinct when discussing what each tournament game is like on Wednesday night.
"It doesn't matter if it's pretty or ugly," said Leslie, "All that matters is that you get to play another game."
St. Marys started out slow, then dominated the second half to move on in the Division II boys basketball sectional with a 49-33 win over Bath at Lima Senior High School. The Roughriders (18-3) will play on Friday in the second game of the session against Shawnee.
The Indians, 6-14 entering the tournament, pulled off the upset in beating Elida 54-51 in a double-overtime thriller in the opening game of the night, sending the Bulldogs home for the season with a 17-4 record.
For the first 12 minutes of the game, it looked like Bath (6-15) was going to top St. Marys and knock out the Western Buckeye League champs. The Wildcats played a patient game offensively taking just eight shots in the first quarter but connecting on six as Bath led 15-7 after the first quarter. St. Marys started out a little chilly shooting, something Leslie contributed to the team being a little timid to start the game.
"We weren't being aggressive in the first half," said senior guard Tom Burke. "Coach said at halftime to take the ball to the hole a little bit and play our game instead of being a little tentative."
St. Marys actually started to come out of its shell at the end of the second quarter, scoring 11 straight points in the quarter and taking a quick 18-17 lead before Bath's Travis Taylor ended the half with a bucket to put the Wildcats up 19-18 at the break.
Corey Vossler kept St. Marys in the game in the first half, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the second quarter.
After the half, which included a halftime talk from Burke, the Roughriders came back all the way. Burke, who missed all three of his three-point attempts in the first half, hit two straight to start the third quarter. The second trey tied things up at 26-all. After getting a Bath turnover, Burke put the 'Riders up 28-26, a lead that would not be relinqueshed.
St. Marys led 32-31 at the end of the third stanza and immediately pushed the lead up at the start of the fourth quarter. The St. Marys defensive pressure forced nine turnovers in the quarter -- 24 in the game -- that resulted in some easy buckets or trips to the foul line. St. Marys scored the first eight points of the quarter to make it 40-31 before Bath scored with 4:52 left. That would be the final time Bath dented the scoreboard as the Roughriders continued their pressure.
Bath started to foul more frequently, which gave St. Marys some big points as the team was 17-of-25 from the free-throw line in the game.
St. Marys' outside shooting opened the paint up, allowing Adam Johns to come up with eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter.
"I think our best asset is our defense," said Vossler. "We get after people, cause turnovers. The things we have to do to win."
"In the second quarter, (St. Marys) extended their defense and we started to turn over the ball," said Bath coach Doug Davis. "It was a big key in the second half."
The teams combined for 36 fouls in the game, although Bath went to line just five times.
"They were bangers," said Vossler, sporting a small spot of blood on his jersey. "We're a physical team. I thought we matched up well with their physicalness. Every rebound was a battle and so was every loose ball."
Bath did finish the game shooting 50 percent -- St. Marys shot just 35 percent -- but the Wildcats attempted just 28 shots on the night.
"That's a real low number of shots," said Davis. "We needed to get more shots off than that."
Brock Best led the Wildcats with 10 points while Jared Brackman added eight points and eight assists.