BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — In a Division I district semifinal at Central Catholic’s Sullivan Center on March 2, Anthony Wayne led St. John’s Jesuit, 24-23, at halftime.
Then the wheels fell off for the Generals.
The Titans scored the first 10 points of the second half and went on to earn a 59-41 victory.
AW senior guard Garret Pike led all scorers with 17 points and five rebounds, but St. John’s shot 55 percent (22-for-40) from the floor.
Senior guard Brady Lichtenberg contributed 14 points, senior forward Jaedyn McKinstry scored 11 and sophomore guard C.J. Hornbeak added 10.
In addition, the Titans defense clamped down on the Generals, forcing 18 turnovers, including 15 steals.
St. John’s (16-4) went on to defeat Findlay, 41-28, in the district final and advanced to face Lima Senior (19-4) in a regional semifinal on Wednesday, March 10 at Norwalk High School.
Anthony Wayne, which shared the Northern Lakes League championship with Southview, saw its season end at 11-6.
Three of AW’s losses were to Northview (21-4), which won the NLL tournament but finished in third place during the regular season. The Wildcats fell in the district final to top-seeded Lima Senior, 73-67.
The Generals knew they had their hands full with St. John’s, which shared the Three Rivers Athletic Conference title with Lima Senior and Findlay and was the No. 2 seed in the district.
The Titans had already defeated AW, 55-42, during the regular season, so coach Josh Arthur knew something had to change. Early on, it looked as if the Generals might have the answer.
Pike scored in transition in the first quarter on a long pass from senior guard Evan Anderson to give AW a 10-9 lead with 2:15 remaining.
Next, Pike hit a 3-pointer on a dish from senior guard Dominic Debo and scored again on a rebound and put-back, giving his team a 15-11 lead after one quarter. Pike scored all of AW’s final nine points in the stanza
St. John’s slowly crawled back in the second, but Debo scored on a 5-foot floater with 40 seconds to go in the half to give the Generals a one-point lead at intermission.
“We played a great 16 minutes,” Arthur said about his team’s first-half performance.
Everything changed after the break, however. All seven of AW’s points were scored by Pike, but the Titans pressure was too much. They put 24 points on the board to take a 47-31 lead entering the final stanza.
St. John’s forced five turnovers in the third quarter, all of them steals leading to easy transition buckets.
“They are a strong team, but keeping the same intensity throughout the whole game was tough,” Arthur said.
“I thought we played a couple good minutes in the second half, too, but you’ve got to play 32, not 24.”
The Generals were 16-for-41 from the field (39 percent) and had 11 free- throw opportunities, all in the fourth quarter, making six. AW also had a 25-21 advantage off the glass.
Senior forward Evan Ruhe scored six points for AW, Debo and senior guard Spencer Reid had five apiece and Anderson and junior guard Jacob Copley added four each.
Anderson led his team with six rebounds, while sophomore guard Parker Schofield, who did not score, had two steals for the Generals.
For the Titans, who went 9-for-12 from the charity stripe and had 11 turnovers, senior forward Thomas Zsiros scored eight points and junior guard Kennedy Vaughn had seven.
Senior forwards Andrew Miller and John Obeto contributed four and two points, respectively, for St. John’s.
Miller led the Titans defense with four steals, Lichtenberg had three and Zsiros, Hornbeak and senior forward Shane Garcia had two apiece. Lichtenberg grabbed a team-high four rebounds.