Riders Rough Up Rangers

New Knoxville’s Jared Osborne is guarded by St. Marys’ Ethan Steger under the basket in the first quarter of a non-league boys basketball game on Friday.
Sports Editor

After two tough games to start the season, St. Marys head coach Craig Szymczak is right where he wants his team to be; at .500.

A 20-4 first-quarter score on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor, coupled with the continuous issues New Knoxville has with turning the ball over, the Roughriders head into the last game of the 2018 calendar year with a 2-2 record after defeating the Rangers 58-34 on Friday.

“I thought defensively, probably our best quarter was the first quarter where we held them to four points,” the Roughriders’ fourth-year coach said. “We did a lot of positive things and our goal is to be 2-2, which we are at the end of the night, and it is about continuing to work to get better.”

After suffering losses in the first two games of the season by a combined 46 points, the Roughriders (2-2) found a way to win a game late on Saturday against Parkway and dominate New Knoxville (1-5) on Friday. All of a sudden, the Roughriders have a chance to begin 2019 3-2 with a full head of steam against Van Wert next week to reopen Western Buckeye League play.

“The Parkway game was something we did not do last year where the game was tied or we were down,” Szymczak said. “But we found a way to come back and win that game and it gave us some confidence going into these next two games.

“Tomorrow, we have a team that, record-wise, I know they are not happy, but we were in the same situation last year where we let one get away.”

St. Marys opened the game with a 17-2 lead on buckets by Max Mielke, Ethan Steger, Braeden Dunlap and Kadin Davis and three consecutive 3-pointers by Carter Ballweg with 2:23 remaining in the opening quarter. A Caleb Lageman layup with 7 seconds left ended the Roughriders’ 17-0 overall run.

“If they can shoot that way — the way they did in the first quarter — their coach is going to be very happy,” Rangers coach Mike Piatt said. “They shot the ball well.”

The Roughriders shot 8-of-10 from the floor and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc — three of them coming from Ballweg — in the first quarter. New Knoxville, however, continued turning the ball over — an Achilles heel for them so far this season — with five miscues in the first seven possessions. New Knoxville followed that by missing its next six shots.

“At times we look pretty good, and then at times we show our youth and turn the ball over,” Piatt said. “But boy, we sure did miss a lot of layups early and got off to an ugly start in the first quarter. … Those first three possessions of the third quarter, we turn the ball over and it leads to three layups.

“We have to continue to learn to get better.”

St. Marys pushed its lead to 27-5 with 5:10 left in the first half as New Knoxville struggled to connect on a field goal until Andrew Poppe’s bucket with 3:57 remaining, down 27-8. The Rangers shot 6-of-19 from the floor in the first half and committed 10 turnovers compared to the Riders’ 13-of-22 mark.

Ballweg’s four first-half 3-pointers opened the inside for the Roughriders in the second half with three straight layups to open the third quarter — all on New Knoxville turnovers — to lead 39-16 just 52 seconds into the quarter. 

Buckets inside the arc from Ballweg and Carson Fischbach continued that inside dominance for St. Marys with 44-20 lead with 3:29 left in the third.

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