By DAVE HANNEMAN
TONTOGANY — Findlay’s boys basketball team bought itself another game on Friday night.
But like anything worth having, the Trojans had to earn it.
Austin Gutting had a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double, Adam Twining scored 14 of his 17 points during a game-breaking second quarter, and Michael Clark added 12 points and some clutch pressure-beating leadership as Findlay topped Lima Senior 64-46 in a Division I boys sectional final at Otsego High School.
“I told the guys we bought ourselves a week and we need to take advantage of it,” said FHS coach Jim Rucki.
“We did not have a productive week of practice last week. We need to have a productive week of practice this week.
“We bought ourselves one more week to try and get better.”
Findlay improved to 17-5 and will face Perrysburg at 7 p.m. Thursday in the district semifinals at Otsego. That winner advances to next Saturday’s Division I district championship at Bowling Green State University.
Findlay already owned two double-digit Three Rivers Athletic Conference wins over Lima Senior. Nobody was presumptuous enough to predict a third.
“It’s tough playing your main rival three times in a season. Those are hard-fought games that can get emotional,” Rucki said.
“We were worried because they had some really nice wins down the stretch, they beat some good teams and we hadn’t practice well this past week. So, we were hoping we’d show up when the lights came on.”
Findlay did. But Lima Senior did too.
There were four ties in the first quarter before Findlay grabbed an 11-10 lead thanks to Gutting. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound post, known more for his power moves in the paint than his deft touch outside, drained one basket with his foot on the 3-point line and another from beyond it.
“I’m pretty sure those were the first two jump shots I’ve shot all year, and it was definitely my first 3-point shot,” said Gutting, who made Lima Senior pay for daring him to shoot from outside by scoring nine points in the first quarter.
Findlay’s lead was short-lived, though. Jay Thomas, one of four talented sophomores in Lima Senior’s starting lineup, scored on an offensive rebound, then converted when Findlay didn’t on a fast-break that put the Spartans on top 14-11.
Usually a run-and-gun team that likes to shoot the 3-pointer, Lima Senior was instead getting excellent passing and screen-and-roll execution to get inside looks for sophomores Thomas (6-2), Ruben Flowers (6-3) and Rico Stafford (6-4).
Usually a good 3-point shooting team, Findlay wasn’t. With Lima Senior applying good pressure on the perimeter, the Trojans connected on just one of their first seven 3-point attempts.
Findlay did rally for a 19-14 lead on a runner by Clark and two 3-pointers by Twining — one old-fashioned, the other from beyond the arc. Thomas, who scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the second quarter, answered with a 3-point play of his own as the Spartans hung close.
The turning point came with 3:43 left in the second quarter.
In a physical game where intensity was high on both sides, fouls were a factor. Flowers, Stafford, 6-8 back-up center Justice Graham and 6-3 senior Trey Gunn all had two fouls midway through the second quarter. Twining and Grant Niswander had two each for Findlay, and Braden Miller went to the bench with his third with four minutes left in the first half.
The overall impact, though, cost Lima Senior most.
With 3:43 left in the second quarter, Niswander drove to the basket. Flowers was called for his third personal, and what he said earned him a technical, his fourth.
Niswander missed his free throws, but Twining converted both technical foul shots and Gutting added another after Findlay inbounded the ball. Twining then continued the hot hand, knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers that boosted the lead to 29-19.
“That technical was a huge momentum shift for us,” Gutting said. “Adam (Twining) kept it rolling by knocking down a couple of threes and we were set from then on.”
Lima Senior kept the game in the 8-9-point range for awhile, but there was something about that double-digit deficit that was pivotal.
“That minute and 30 seconds changed the whole complexion of the game,” said Lima Senior coach Shawn Allen.
“I’m proud of our kids. They played hard. But a 10-point deficit against Findlay is like a 20-point deficit against everybody else.”
After missing six of its first seven 3-pointers, Findlay made 6 of 11 the rest of the game. The Trojans survived a shaky 8 of 17 effort from the line by making exactly 50 percent of its field goals (24 of 48).
“It’s like we say every year, every team is one bad shooting night away from packing away their gear,” Rucki said.
“We were on our way to it being a not-good-shooting night for us. I thought we relied on the 3-pointer too much early on, then we hit a couple. If you’re going to shoot the ’3′, you need to make them.”
Stafford backed Thomas’s 21-point night with 17 points of his own before fouling out with 1:34 to play. Flowers had picked up his fifth foul 90 seconds earlier.
“Right now Findlay is just a better team than us,” Allen said.
“They start four seniors and a junior; we start four sophomores and a senior. Give them credit, they’ve been there before. Hopefully we’ll get there, too.”
LIMA SENIOR (10-14)
Flowers 2-3 0-0 4, Liles 0-2 0-0 0, Allen 0-4 0-0 0, Stafford 7-10 2-4 17, Thomas 8-18 3-6 21, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Graham 0-1 0-0 0, Gunn 0-2 0-2 0, Irons 0-1 0-0 0, Gordon 0-0 3-4 3, Long 0-1 1-2 1, Glover 0-0 0-0 0, Dunlap 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 18-42 9-18–46.
B. Miller 2-7 0-0 5, Niswander 2-4 2-4 7, Clark 5-8 0-0 12, Twining 5-12 4-7 17, Gutting 8-14 2-5 19, McKinniss 1-3 0-1 2, Gobrecht 0-0 0-0 0, Kairys 0-1 0-0 0, C. Miller 1-2 0-1 2, Buford 0-0 0-0 0, Hammond 0-0 0-0 0, Nunn 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24-48 8-17–64.
Lima Senior 10 11 12 13 — 46
Findlay 11 20 18 15 — 64
THREE-POINT GOALS: Lima Senior 1-10 (Liles 0-1, Allen 0-3, Stafford 1-1, Thomas 0-4, Dunlap 0-1); Findlay 8-18 (B. Miller 1-5, Niswander 1-3, Clark 2-4, Twin ing 3-5, McKinniss 0-2, Gutting 1-1).
REBOUNDS: Lima Senior 33 (Thomas 7, Stafford 5); Findlay 33 (Gutting 11, Twining 6, B. Miller 5).
TURNOVERS: Lima Senior 13, Findlay 8.
Send an E-mail to Dave Hanneman