St. Paul closes regular season with sixth straight win

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Mark Hazelwood, Norwalk Reflector, Ohio
·5 min read
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Feb. 21—NORWALK — A costume fitting for a future dress rehearsal for a school play was going on inside the St. Paul Convocation Center Saturday.

Just across the hallway inside Harvey Keller Gymnasium, one could speculate another dress rehearsal was taking place in the form of a non-league boys basketball game between visiting Margaretta and the host Flyers.

With Margaretta as the No. 2 seed and St. Paul the No. 3 in the Division IV Willard district, which begins next week, the possibility of a district semifinal rematch between the two teams could loom on March 2.

But given how the night before played out for both teams, neither side was willing to show a ton in a 53-40 win for the Flyers in the regular season finale for both teams.

The Flyers (15-5) closed out the regular season with six straight wins after narrow back-to-back losses vs. Crestview (15-7) and Western Reserve (17-2) by a combined 13 points at home on Jan. 23 and Jan. 29.

Before a potential rematch in 10 days, each team must win home sectional championship games. The Polar Bears (14-8) will host either Plymouth or Monroeville, while the Flyers will entertain Crestline or New London, both at 7 p.m. Friday.

St. Paul senior Adam Baker, who scored eight points on Saturday, said the Flyers had to refocus after the back-to-back losses that eliminated them from Firelands Conference contention.

"We focused on what we could control, which was bouncing back and finishing the season strong going into the tournament," he said. "If it happens again (vs. Margaretta), I'm just glad that we played them and got to see them and get a feel for what their players can do."

St. Paul got off to a quick start, leading 10-5 midway through the first. After a Margaretta basket by standout Jake Leibacher, the flyers scored the next eight points for an 18-7 lead after one quarter.

Kaden Maxwell started the run, then Scotty Adelman scored consecutively before Nate Winslow capped with a driving layup at the 1:14 mark of the first.

Margaretta closed within 20-16 on a Tyler Warner basket with 3:42 left in the half, but then the Flyers scored the last six points of the half — capped by a putback basket off a miss by Nick Winslow just before the second quarter buzzer.

Already ahead 10 points (26-16) at the half, Baker started a 10-0 scoring run with a 3-pointer, then Kaden Maxwell scored the last six points in transition to give the Flyers a commanding 38-20 lead with 4:54 left in the third quarter.

St. Paul led 47-33 through three quarters, and both teams then subbed freely and frequently throughout the final eight minutes.

"A good win," St. Paul coach Mike Smith said. "Both teams were kind of vanilla a bit, but I was just excited about the way our guys played. I thought we played well defensively and rebounded well. We were tough on the ball and I thought our gap coverage was good.

"We made good decisions, and for the most part took care of the basketball," he added. "They're a good team and we were able to get a lot of kids in."

On Friday, the Polar Bears made a huge rally but came up short on a last-second shot in a 71-69 loss vs. Willard, which cost them a share of the SBC Bay Division championship.

Just over 16 hours later, they were on a bus headed to Norwalk to face the Flyers.

"We had a tough turnaround. Flat out, plain and simple," Margaretta coach Steve Keller said. "We had a tough turnaround today. But I'm very pleased with our guys with the regular season that we had, now we have to wipe that slate clean for Friday.

"But St. Paul did a nice job and were physical and made some shots," he added. "Adelman played well for them I thought, and the Winslow's are always tough."

Keller admitted the Margaretta coaching staff will look at some things from Saturday on the game film in case both teams do win and play again.

"I think both teams were pretty plain and didn't try and run a lot, but we were certainly able to see the improvements that their guards have made since we played them last year," Keller said. "Hopefully we'll be able to play well and get it done on Friday."

Nick Winslow scored 14 and Adelman had 13 for the Flyers. Nate Winslow and Maxwell also scored eight points along with Baker.

"I'd rather win than lose," Smith said. "As I told Coach Keller, it's better to play a game than practice. At this point in time, I just thought we were really solid. I'm sure if we play again it will be a great game, but I'll take it because I want our kids to win."

The St. Paul junior varsity team finished the season with a 51-36 loss on Saturday. Jayden Hipp scored 10 points and Thomas Bocock had nine. The JV Flyers finished 9-10 overall and 7-7 in the FC.

MARGARETTA (14-8)

Cameron Sosa 4-1—9; Nathan Schaefer 1-0—2; Spencer Michel 1-0—2; Tyler Warner 2-0—4; Colson Biehl 0-2—2; Jake Leibacher 4-1—9; Ben Palomo 2-0—5; Hayden Wiley 3-0—7. TOTALS 17-4—40.

ST. PAUL (15-5)

Adam Baker 3-0—8; Scotty Adelman 6-1—13; Nick Winslow 5-4—14; Kaden Maxwell 4-0—8; Nate Winslow 4-0—8; Travis Herner 1-0—2. TOTALS 23-5—53.

Margaretta 7 9 15 9 — 40

St. Paul 18 8 21 6 — 53

3-point FGs: (M) Palomo, Wiley; (SP) Baker 2

JV: Margaretta, 51-36