Riders' Memorable Season Comes To An End

Above: St. Marys’ Jill Schmitmeyer (14) and Makenna Mele hug Roughriders head girls basketball coach Jon Burke in the final minute of Thursday’s Division II district semifinal.
Sports Editor

A postseason run that turned a mediocre regular season into a memorable year came to its end on Thursday.

After winning their first sectional title in nearly a decade, St. Marys struggled with Defiance’s suffocating defense in the paint, coupled with a 1-of-7 clip from the floor in the final 2:53, the Roughriders’ 45-35 in a Division II district semifinal defeat at Paulding High School.

“You go back to the basketball previews around the area in the beginning of the season and no one put St. Marys as one of the top teams in the area,” Roughriders coach Jon Burke said. “We didn’t always play well enough to get there, but I thought throughout the course of the season, we did play better and I thought we played championship-quality defense.
“I am so proud of how far this team has come working together.”

Defiance (20-4) advances to play Napoleon — who defeated Kenton, 54-44, in the early game Thursday — for a district final on Saturday.

For the Roughriders, their season ends at 11-14.

But who would have thought St. Marys would have gone this far?

The Roughriders regular season included a pair of three-game losing skids, a season-ending injury to Madi Howell — which created a thin crew at the post position — losses in seven of the final nine regular season games heading into the postseason and countless close losses that did not go the Roughriders’ way, including Thursday.

Yet St. Marys found a way to turn the season around by beating Shawnee and rival Bath in the sectional tournament to claim its first sectional title in nine years.

After years of hopes dashed away, this year turned into anything but a wasted season.

The Roughriders led as late as the 3:49 mark of the third quarter and erased a six-point deficit down to four with 2:53 remaining in regulation, but St. Marys missed six of its final seven shots and had its team leader Sydney Cisco foul out with 1:33 remaining in the fourth quarter as Defiance finished with a 6-2 advantage.

Overall, Defiance outscored St. Marys 26-15 in the second half.

Trailing most of the first half, the Roughriders overcame a 16-10 deficit to cut the Defiance lead to one, 19-18, when Cisco ended the first half by driving to the basket from her left around Defiance’s Carly Smiddy to give St. Marys a 20-19 lead at the buzzer.

For the full story, see Friday's print edition of The Evening Leader.