Preview: Riders Looking To End Skid To Celina

The St. Marys Roughriders boys basketball team huddle together during a timeout in last season's Western Buckeye League match against Celina.
Sports Editor

Is this the year a St. Marys Roughriders boys basketball team defeats Celina?

It’s been 12 agonizing seasons since a blue and gold team pulled off that feat against the team across the lake.

“It’s game No. 18 for us, but it is an important for us just because of who we are playing,” Roughriders coach Craig Szymczak said after practice on Wednesday. “But we are not trying to put any extra pressure on them.”

The Roughriders have lost 12 games in a row to Celina, with the latest loss being a gut-wrenching 48-45 defeat at the Celina Fieldhouse last season. A pair of technical fouls served as a turning point as the Bulldogs overcame a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit.

That game last season was a turning point in the season for St. Marys as the Riders lost the final six games. Including losses to Celina and Marion Local the game before, the Roughriders ended the 2016-17 season with an eight-game losing skid.

The last time a St. Marys team defeated Celina was on Dec. 16, 2005 with Cort Hamilton was head coach that season.

This season, the Roughriders (5-12, 3-2 WBL) come into Friday’s match with the most wins in Western Buckeye League play since Dan Hegemeier coached the team during the 2014-15 season, but the Bulldogs (3-14, 2-4) are only one and a half games back in the standings and upset No. 5 ranked St. Henry on Saturday as they have improveed throughout the season.

During the 2016-17 season, the Roughriders allowed an average of 56.2 points per game, but have improved this season to 47.9 ppg. In Szymczak’s first season, St. Mary allowed 64.6 ppg.

The biggest concern coming into Friday’s game is the Roughriders’ inability to finish games in the fourth quarter.

In Saturday’s loss to Sidney where the Roughriders were outscored 17-9 in the fourth quarter, St. Marys has been outscored by a combined 267-229 in the final stanza in 17 games this season.
In close fourth-quarter games, the Roughriders are 3-9, but Szymczak believes it is more about how his team plays earlier in the game and not so much how they play in the fourth quarter that makes the difference.

For the full preview of the St. Marys vs. Celina game, grab Thursday's print edition of The Evening Leader.