By DAVE HANNEMAN
TOLEDO — Winters still here.
And if Toledo Central Catholic keeps playing like it did on Friday, Winters and his buddies could be around for awhile.
Marcus Winters hit Findlay like an avalanche Friday, scoring seven points off two steals in the final minute of the first half to provide the spark in Central Catholic’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference-clinching 66-48 win over Findlay.
“We got a steal, then another steal, and all of a sudden the way we normally play started to come out,” said TCC coach Jim Welling. “We got a lot sharper, and we got a lot more rhythm. We just told the kids that you have to execute this time of year, you have to run your stuff, you have to trust each and you have to believe in what you do.”
Central Catholic, which moved into sole possession of first place by beating Toledo St. John’s last Friday, completed TRAC play at 13-1. The Fighting Irish are 18-3 overall.
“In this league, if you look top to bottom, you have to grind 14 games,” Welling said. “Anybody that goes 13-1 with the coaching quality and great players in this league, I mean, that’s a great tribute to our kids.”
Sharp, aggressive, and sparked by the type of crisp passes that can shred a defense and result in easy inside looks, Findlay led 5-0, 7-2 and 9-5 by making four of its first five shots from the field. But there were cracks in the Trojans’ armor.
Findlay turned the ball over six times in the first quarter, including a steal and lay-up by Central Catholic sub Jerry Moore III that tied the game 9-9 at the end of the period.
“All it takes is a couple of little mistakes,” Findlay coach Jim Rucki said. “We had the lead, or it was tied and we had the ball. We needed to play really well, but we did not execute when we needed to.”
DeShone Kizer gave TCC its first lead when he scored off a steal to open the second quarter. Findlay retaliated, though, answering every Central Catholic basket with one of its own as the lead changed hands on eight consecutive possessions.
After TCC went up 21-19, Austin Gutting hit a floater in the lane and Adam Twining converted two free throws, putting Findlay in front 23-21 with 1:27 left in the half.
Jeremiah Braswell tied the game for TCC, and Winters took over.
The junior guard picked the ball clean, went in for a layup, then stole the ball again. Michael Clark was called for an intentional foul trying to deny Winters an easy layup. Winters made both free throws, then threw in a 3-pointer as he fell into the Findlay bench just before the halftime horn.
“Marcus has the capability of doing that,” Welling said of Winters, who scored half of his 14 points in that 60-second span late in the first half.
Winters’ half-ending 3-pointer was a dagger in the hopes of the Trojans. Kizer hit a baseline jumper to open the third quarter, Nathaniel Harris converted a 3-point play off an offensive rebound, and Braswell drove, scored, was fouled and competed another 3-point play for the Irish.
Just more than two minutes into the second half, Central Catholic’s lead had grown to 38-26. Findlay got no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
“Let’s say it like it is: They took us to the woodshed. They spanked us,” Rucki said after Findlay ended regular season play at 16-5 and 10-4 in the TRAC.
“They scored on almost every possession in the third quarter (8 of 13) and when they did miss they got the offensive rebound. We were playing zone most of those possessions and they were getting layups.
“(Central Catholic) is really, really good defensively and they are very good interior passers. They break you down and dish it to the open guy. You have to have a little bit better energy on defense to react and help the helper against them. We just didn’t have it.”
Twining had a perfect first half for Findlay, making all five of his field goals, including a 3-pointer, and all five of his free throws to account for 16 of Findlay’s 23 points. The senior wing was held to three points in the second half, though, after Welling made a defensive change.
“After DeShone (Kizer) got two quick fouls, we moved Tommy Vetter over onto Twining and he stayed with him the rest of the game,” Welling said. “Adam (Twining) is a really good player, but Vetter did a fabulous job defensively. We call him our ‘hardhat and lunchpail’ guy. He doesn’t get a lot of accolades, but we all know how much we appreciated him around here.”
Findlay’s junior varsity lost its final game, falling 39-30 to TCC’s reserves. Trey Buford scored 12 points and Joey Hammond had nine for Findlay’s reserves, who finished 18-3 overall and had a TRAC-best 12-2 record.
findlay (16-5, 10-4 TRAC)
B. Miller 1-3 0-0 3, Niswander 1-1 0-0 2, Clark 3-6 0-0 9, Twining 6-9 6-6 19, Gutting 2-5 0-1 4, McKinnis 0-2 2-2 2, Gobrecht 2-2 2-2 6, Kairys 0-0 0-0 0, Hammond 1-2 0-0 3, C. Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Buford 0-0 0-0 0, Nunn 0-0 0-0 0.. TOTALS: 16-30 10-11–48.
Toledo cent. cath. (18-3, 13-1 TRAC)
Winters 3-7 6-6 14, Braswell 6-11 5-56 17, Kizer 6-9 2-2 12, Harris 1-2 1-1 3, Vetter 4-6 0-0 8, Moore 4-6 0-0 8, Grier 1-1 0-0 2, Grombacher 0-1 0-0 0, Biddle 1-1 0-0 2, Marshall 0-0 0-0 0, Best 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24-44 16-18 66.
Findlay 9 14 13 12 — 48
Toledo Central Catholic 9 21 20 16 — 66
3-Point GOALS: Findlay 6-11 (Hammond 1-2, B. Miller 1-3, Clark 3-3, Twining 1-1, McKinnis 0-2); Toledo Central Catholic 2-9 (Winters 2-4, Grombacher 0-1, Kizer 0-1, Vetter 0-2, Best 0-1).
rebounds: Findlay 17 (Niswander 3, Gutting 3); Toledo Central Catholic 18 (Kizer 4).
turnovers: Findlay 15, Toledo Central Catholic 6.
junior varsity: Toledo Central Catholic, 39-30.
Send an E-mail to Dave Hanneman