ST. MARYS — Only one 3-pointer went down for the St. Marys boys basketball team all Friday night. It happened to be the one that sparked the Roughriders’ run away from Kenton for a 56-42 Western Buckeye League victory.
St. Marys’ offense shook off a rough start and started rolling in the fourth quarter as the Roughriders outscored the Wildcats 20-8 in the game’s final eight minutes. The run was stoked by junior center Quinn Zaerr, who found himself unguarded left of the top of the key. Zaerr ripped a line drive through the net — the lone made 3-pointer out of the 14 St. Marys hoisted — to give St. Marys a 36-34 lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
“I just told them we need to lighten up and play hard,” said St. Marys head coach Dan Hegemier, who is now just one win away from the 500th of his high school coaching career. He and the Riders will try to hit that milestone against Marion Local on Saturday night at Memorial High School.
The Roughriders (2-3, 1-1 WBL) had some fun in the second half to win their first WBL game of the season.
St. Marys went on a 9-0 run to take control late in the third and early in the fourth quarter. After Zaerr tripled, he hit two free throws early in the fourth quarter to make it a two-possession game. Tyler Sullivan tacked on two free throws, Marquis Wilson drove the basket for a lay-in to put the Riders up 42-34.
Isaac Fitzgerald scored a game-high 20 points off the bench for St. Marys. Fitzgerald worked hard off the ball, cutting towards the hoop to get good looks near the basket on feeds from point guard Marquis Wilson, who scored 14 points and controlled the action with his passing down the stretch.
“Marquis Wilson had a great floor game tonight,” Hegemier said. “He saw the open man and got the ball to Isaac Fitzgerald and Quinn Zaerr. He’s starting to look like a pretty nice ballplayer. That’s what did it....I was really impressed with Marquis tonight. Really impressed.”
That strong play at the point meant everything was moving at the Roughriders’ flow.
“I thought they dictated pace,” Kenton head coach Matt McCullough said. “We wanted to try to dictate tempo and make it an uptempo game. It was 27-27 at the half and that’s definitely their pace.”
Zaerr, working his way back into the rotation after missing two games with an injury, scored 11 points off the bench. St. Marys’ bench scored 32 of the Riders’ 56 points between Fitzgerald, Zaerr and Dirk Fenwick.
St. Marys shot an icy 5 of 22 in the first quarter, many of them from point-blank range.
“We were playing volleyball with the ball over the net,” Hegemier said. “They were one footers. Our big thing is we’ve got to score. I thought we only took one or two bad shots the whole night.”
The Roughriders turned that around with a 6 for 9 performance from the floor in the fourth quarter while limiting Kenton on the other end of the floor.
St. Marys held Kenton to just 15 second-half points. Kenton played just its second game of the season and its second in three nights after a long playoff football run.
Hegemier said the Riders caught an athletic Wildcat team at a good time.
“Kenton just started playing,” Hegemier said. “They’ve got real good athletes. They got off the floor quick. They’re going to be really good.”
Austin Phillips scored 11 points to lead Kenton. Colyn Blackford added 10 points.
Kenton shot just 31 percent from the floor and went 9 of 23 from the free throw line (39 percent).
“The shots just weren’t falling for us tonight,” McCullough said. “They did a good job on defense mixing things up on us. We didn’t attack the basket and settled for outside shots.”
St. Marys has now won five of the last six meetings against Kenton, including last season’s sectional semifinal win at Lima Senior.