By DAVE HANNEMAN
TOLEDO — Jim Rucki put a lot of stock in senior veterans R.J. Nunn and Ryan Roth this season.
At Toledo St. John’s on Friday, they paid him back in full … and then some.
Roth hit a long 3-pointer to put Findlay ahead in overtime, then teamed with Nunn to go 6 for 6 from the line in the final 38 seconds as the Trojans overcame a major breakdown in the fourth quarter with a gut-check effort in the extra period and beat St. John’s 59-55 in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference game at the Titan Dome.
“I told the guys that, win or lose, I was very proud of them,” Rucki said.
“For awhile there, everything that could go wrong went wrong. But they just kept playing. They kept their poise, they kept plugging away and because of that they came away with a very big win.”
The win was Findlay’s first-ever at St. John’s. The Trojans ended regular-season play 14-8 and 8-6 in the TRAC.
Toledo St. John’s, which has amassed a 725-223 overall record under long-time coach Ed Heintsel and won outright or shared five of the seven TRAC boys basketball championships, fell to 11-10, 7-7 in the league.
“It’s not the place. It’s all the guys that have been playing for St. John’s that makes them so tough up here,” Rucki said.
“That’s a good team. They have guys who can shoot, they move the ball really well, they’re well-coached, they’re really solid defensively.
“This was a really good way for us to end the regular season, a very good win all the way around.”
A.J. Adams led Findlay with 17 points. Roth scored 16 and Nunn 14.
Brady Lichtenberg, a sophomore guard, pumped in 18 points for St. John’s. Caleb Smith and Gary Batch added 11 points each for the Titans.
Friday’s game was the second time this season Findlay and St. John’s went into overtime. St. John’s dominated the extra period to win the first matchup, and seemed to have all the momentum this time as well after erasing a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Batch gave the Titans a 51-50 advantage in overtime when he cut to the basket and scored on a feed from Payton Moyer, who drew double-team coverage on a dribble drive to the basket before dishing off.
Findlay could have folded, and St. John’s was likely counting on that after a second half in which the Titans, who were outscored 18-8 in the third quarter and trailed 45-32 entering the fourth. St. John’s rebounded late and blitzed Findlay 17-4 to tie the game and force overtime.
St. John’s took advantage of four straight Findlay turnovers to open the fourth quarter with a 10-0 burst. Nunn finally countered on a back-door cut, and Adams scored to put the Trojans up 49-44.
Moyer missed on a 3-pointer, but was fouled and converted all three free throws. Findlay’s sixth turnover of the quarter opened the door for Batch to put back his own miss and tie the game at 49 with 1:20 on the clock.
Findlay went for the last shot, but couldn’t connect.
Not only did Findlay turn the ball over six times in the fourth quarter, the Trojans went just 2 for 6 from the field, did not get to the foul line in the period, and were outrebounded 8-3.
“We might have (panicked) a little bit,” Rucki said.
“We had some bad possessions late in the fourth quarter and overtime. But I liked our overall effort. We got some stops on the defensive end and we made some free throws down the stretch.”
Instead of stepping back, the Trojans stepped up, especially Nunn and Roth.
After hitting the clutch 3-pointer that put Findlay ahead, Roth twice got the rebound on misses by St. John’s. He was fouled after the second one, and converted the one-and-one to make it 55-51 with 38 seconds left.
Lichtenberg and Batch scored for St. John’s in those final 38 seconds. But Nunn came through for Findlay, making both ends of a one-and-one with 17.6 seconds left, then two more with 6.4 seconds on the clock.
“Coach Rucki was poised, so we stayed poised and were able to come out with a big win,” Nunn said.
“We’ve been saying we can play at a very high level. St. John’s is a very good team, and for us to be able to come up here and win one in this gym, that’s big.”
Although Findlay’s first-ever win at St. John’s is a reason to celebrate, it will be back to business soon enough for the Trojans as they prepare for the postseason.
“This will make for a nice weekend,” Rucki said. “Come Monday everything starts new. It’s a whole new season.”
Findlay opens tournament play next week when the Trojans square off against Springfield in the Division I district quarterfinals at Fostoria High School.
Findlay ‘s freshman and junior varsity teams completed their seasons on Friday. Ryan Stillings scored 10 points and Terrion Ross added nine as Findlay’s JV (17-5, 10-4 TRAC) beat St. John’s 50-39. The freshmen posted a 41-26 win, going 20-2 and 14-0 against TRAC opponents.
FINDLAY (14-8, 8-6 TRAC)
Moore 1-1 0-0–2, R. Roth 5-10 2-2–16, Nunn 5-10 4-4–14, Adams 7-14 3-5–17, Strzempka 3-4 0-0–6, M. Roth 1-2 0-0–2, Howard 0-0 2-2–2, Stillings 0-0 0-0–0, Chappell 0-0 0-0–0. TOTALS: 21-41 11-13–59
TOLEDO ST. JOHN’S (11-10, 7-7 TRAC)
Lichtenberg 7-13 0-0–18, Mitsopoulos 0-3 3-4–3, Moyer 1-14 5-5–8, Smith 4-13 0-0–11, Batch 7-9 0–14, Kimmons 0-1 0-0–0, Ryder 0-1 1-2–1, Zsiros 0-0 0-0–0. TOTALS: 20-52 9-11–55.
Findlay 13 14 18 4 10 — 59
Toledo St. John’s 13 11 8 17 6 — 55
3-POINT GOALS: Findlay 3-13 (M. Roth 0-1, R. Roth 4-8, Nunn 0-4); Toledo St. John’s 6-23 (Lichtenberg 4-7, Mitsopoulos 0-1, Moyer 1-13, Smith 1-4.
REBOUNDS: Findlay 26 (Strzempka 5, Adams 5, M. Roth 4, Nunn 4); Toledo St. John’s 20 (Batch 7).
TURNOVERS: Findlay 15, Toledo St. John’s 4.
JUNIOR VARSITY: Findlay, 50-39.
FRESHMEN: Findlay, 41-26.