By DAVE HANNEMAN
Jim Rucki felt fatigue might be a factor as he prepared his Findlay High Trojans to face a fresh and unbeaten Defiance team on Saturday.
As it turned out, an extra game might have been just what the Trojans needed.
“We played Friday and they didn’t,” Rucki said after Findlay used a fast start and a solid defensive game to beat Defiance 48-34 in a nonleague matchup at the Findlay High Gymnasium.
“I was worried it might be to our disadvantage because we spent all week preparing for (Toledo) St. John’s and they spent all week preparing for us. Really, it ended up being an advantage because they seemed a little rusty.”
Defiance hadn’t played since beating Maumee 58-33 on Dec. 29, the Bulldogs’ seventh win without a loss and third straight win in which they held an opponent under 40 points.
Findlay, which started slow but finished strong against St. John’s on Friday, used the hot hand of senior guard Michael Clark to get off to a good start on Saturday, forging an 11-2 lead in the first quarter that gave the Trojans the cushion they needed to post their eighth win in ten games.
Toledo St. John’s tripled its way to an early 15-4 lead against Findlay on Friday, scoring those 15 points on just five possessions thanks to three 3-pointers and two 3-point plays. Findlay took a page from that book on Saturday, with Clark drilling three straight 3-pointers to turn a 2-2 deadlock into an 11-2 lead. Defiance got no closer than seven points the rest of the game.
“Michael got us off on the right foot,” Rucki said. “He found the right spot on the floor and we were able to find him.”
Clark finished with 13 points. Austin Gutting led the Trojans with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Findlay also got another excellent all-around game from 6-foot-3 senior wing Adam Twining, who scored 10 points, snared nine rebounds and handed out six assists.
Defiance had an edge on the boards in the early going, but often failed to convert second and sometimes third chances.
“They seemed a little flat. They did not shoot the ball well,” Rucki said.
“I like to think our defense had something to do with that.”
Defensively, Findlay turned in one of its best efforts of the season in holding Defiance — collectively and individually — well under average.
Trey Guilliam, a senior guard who entered the game averaging more than 20 points a game, was held to four.
Katwan Singleton led Defiance with seven points, slightly more than half his 12.7 average. Emilio Pearson, a 6-4 senior averaging 8.6 points and 7.6 rebounds, was closest to his totals, scoring six points and grabbing six rebounds.
Grant Niswander was assigned with defending Guilliam, along with Braden Miller and Nick Kairys.
Niswander, a junior guard who had 10 points in Friday’s matchup with St. John’s, had eight points and six rebounds against Defiance.
“Grant had a good weekend,” Rucki said. “That’s another positive for us to have one more guy stepping up and contributing like that.”
Niswander nailed a 3-pointer that boosted Findlay’s lead to 18-8 three minutes into the second quarter. Twining then hit a lay-in and Clark scored off one steal and came up with another that led to a Twining 3-pointer as the gap widened to 25-9.
Findlay, which had lost three of its last four matchups with Defiance, went up by 17 points (29-12) when Gutting scored inside twice in the first minute of the second half. The Trojans’ biggest lead was 18 points (42-24) on two Gutting free throws with 4:40 left in the game.
Findlay will be at Toledo Whitmer on Friday and will host Ottawa-Glandorf on Saturday in the renewal of the Route 224 Rivalry.
Findlay’s junior varsity remained undefeated, beating Defiance’s reserves 54-42 to improve to 10-0.
Guilliam 1-2–4, Detter 0-0–0, Batt 1-0–2, Singleton 3-1–7, Pearson 1-4–6, Menendez 1-3–5, Williams 1-0–2, Buhrer 0-0–0, Smiddy 1-4–6, Scranton 1-0–2. TOTALS: 10-14 — 34.
B. Miller 0-0–0, Niswander 3-1–8, Clark 5-0–13, Twining 3-3–10, Gutting 6-2–14, McKinniss 0-0–0, Gobrecht 1-0–2, Kairys 0-0–0, Nunn 0-0–0, Buford 0-1–1. TOTALS: 18-41 7-13–48.
Defiance 4 8 7 15 — 34
Findlay 11 14 8 15 — 48
3-Point GOALS: Defiance 0; Findlay 5-14 (Clark 3, Niswander, Twining).
rebounds: Defiance 24 (Pearson 6, Singleton 5); Findlay 32 (Gutting 10, Twining 9, Niswander 6, B. Miller 5).
turnovers: Defiance 9; Findlay 12.
junior varsity: Findlay, 54-42.