By SCOTT COTTOS
FOSTORIA — With Saturday’s 54-45 nonconference victory over St. Wendelin, Cory-Rawson’s boys basketball team has exactly half as many wins in this young season as it did in all of the 2015-16 campaign.
And that gives Hornets’ coach Dean Birchmeier and his team a good feeling as they hope to improve on last season’s 6-17 finish.
“You know, part of being at a school that is used to being less than .500 is just getting the culture and the mentality to change,” Birchmeier said. “Hopefully, we’re working at that. … I think we’re going in the right direction.”
Eric Ritter and Nathan Zuercher led a balanced scoring attack with 12 points apiece and Cory-Rawson led wire to wire in improving to 3-1.
A crew of six returning letterwinners, five of them seniors, has contributed to the early surge.
“I have a lot of players back from last year, so I think we have more leadership on the floor than we had,” Birchmeier said.
St. Wendelin also has a veteran team, but it has yet to supply first-year coach Tim Ritzler with his first victory in three attempts.
“We haven’t played as hard as we’ve needed to against good teams,” Ritzler said.
“North Baltimore and (Sandusky) St. Mary’s are both very talented teams. Against St. Mary’s (on Friday night), we played them tough for a half and then kind of faded. Here, we just got behind early and then played really tough in the second half. It’s just consistency; putting four quarters together. We have good stretches here and there, but we haven’t put a good full game together.”
Cyle Smith scored a game-high 16 points, with 11 coming after halftime, to pace the Mohawks. Andrew Schetter and Brayden Moon both scored nine points with Schetter and Brody Whetsel grabbing seven rebounds apiece.
Cory-Rawson never trailed after Bryce Tuttle scored on a drive for a 6-4 lead. St. Wendelin carved a 21-9 deficit to 21-15 when Smith and Moon hit back-to-back 3-pointers, but C-R used an 8-1 run from late in the second quarter through the first two minutes of the second half for a 29-16 lead.
Blake Abell’s 3-ball with 10.9 seconds left in the third period sent the Hornets into the final eight minutes up 39-22. The Mohawks never trimmed the lead below double digits until Nick Kelbley dropped in a 3-pointer just before the final buzzer.
Cory-Rawson benefited from 20 of 41 shooting from the field (48.7 percent), including 4 of 8 from 3-point range, and 10 of 13 accuracy from the free-throw line. Tuttle scored nine points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
St. Wendelin was 18 of 45 (40 percent) from the floor and did itself no favors by going 4 of 11 on free throws.
“I liked our fight at the end of the game,” Ritzler said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t come out with that attitude to start the game.
“Free throws were a killer. Every time we made a nice play to get ourselves back in the game, we got sent to the line and we didn’t convert.”
Ritter 5-0–12, Zuercher 2-7–12, Misamore 4-0–8, Tuttle 3-3–9, Kisseberth 2-0–4, Roth 0-0–0, Abell 2-0–5, Schultz 1-0–2, Edwards 1-0–2. TOTALS: 20-41 10-13 — 54.
ST. WENDELIN (0-3)
Lopez 3-0–6, Moon 3-0–6, Smith 6-3–16, Whetsel 1-0–2, Schetter 4-1–9, Noel 0-0–0, Kelbley 1-0–3. TOTALS: 18-45 4-11 — 45.
Cory-Rawson 8 18 13 15 — 54
St. Wendelin 6 9 7 23 — 45
3-POINT GOALS: Cory-Rawson 4-8 (Ritter 2, Abell & Zuercher); St. Wendelin 5-12 (Moon 3, Smith & Kelbley).
REBOUNDS: Cory-Rawson 35 (Tuttle 13); St. Wendelin 23 (Whetsel & Schetter 7).
JUNIOR VARSITY: Cory-Rawson, 41-21.