By DAVE HANNEMAN
TOLEDO — Findlay High’s boys basketball team sometimes plays like it has an on-off switch.
Trojans coach Jim Rucki wished his team wouldn’t always wait so long to hit that “on” position.
Findlay got off to a slow start in both the first and third quarters of Friday’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference game at Toledo Whitmer. But the Trojans flipped the switch in both halves and powered past the Panthers 61-39.
“I wish I could explain it. Sometimes we just come out flat,” Rucki said. “Tonight we were able to turn it on a little later and come away with a win.”
The win was Findlay’s second in eight TRAC games at the Whitmer Fieldhouse. Findlay won its second straight and improved to 9-4 overall, 6-3 in the league.
Whitmer, which graduated all five starters from last year TRAC co-champions, fell to 4-8, 2-7 in the league.
Findlay turned the ball over on its first two possessions, sophomore guard Maurice Purley found senior post C.J. Boecker wide open under the basket both times and Whitmer quickly led 4-0.
Senior wing Tony Delvaux later scored two layups off dribble-drive penetration, giving the Panthers leads of 9-6 and 11-8. Whitmer, which had lost three of four entering Friday’s game with Findlay, still led 14-13 at the first-quarter break and pushed that edge to 16-13 when Boecker put back an offensive rebound to open the second quarter.
Slow starts had cost Findlay dearly in recent close losses. Rucki had an even more recent premonition of things to come.
“We’re scrimmaging our second unit yesterday in practice,” Rucki said. “Two minutes in, the second unit and JV team are up 9-0.
“We’re still young, and we have to find consistency in our practice habits, in our effort in games, in our concentration … everything. If we can find that ultimatum level and be consistent at that level in our energy, in our enthusiasm, in our effort, then we have a chance to be a pretty good team. We have to find that level of consistency, though.”
Eventually the switch got thrown.
Findlay’s zone trap and full-court press began forcing turnovers. The Trojans picked up the tempo and the points started piling up.
Sam Weihrauch’s basket trimmed Whitmer’s deficit to one, A.J. Adams’ 3-pointer put Findlay in the lead and 6-foot-5 junior Chris Strzempka scored on a lob inside. Brock Makrancy knocked down a jumper and Adams scored off a steal as Findlay ended the half on an 11-0 run.
“We made some good individual plays defensively,” Rucki said. “We were getting out in transition and beating their pressure.”
Whitmer missed its last eight shots of the second quarter, but suddenly found its touch again to start the third. Grady Mee opened the second half with a 3-pointer and Riley Keller turned a turnover into a transition basket as Findlay’s eight-point lead quickly shrank to 24-21.
Then Findlay flipped the switch again.
Roth and Makrancy knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, Makrancy added a jumper and Findlay pushed its lead back into double digits with an 8-0 run. Adams 3-point play with 4:01 left in the third quarter put Findlay up 37-23. The Trojans would add two more 8-0 runs in the fourth quarter when the lead reached 15, then 20 points.
“We were down only eight at the half, and came out well in the third quarter. But they made shots and we didn’t,” said Whitmer coach Ryan Brown.
“We have to play 32 minutes, not 25 or 26. We have to play hard and be the tougher team and tonight we were not.”
Boecker scored 11 points and Doni Howard came off the bench to add nine for Whitmer. Findlay capitalized on 19 Whitmer turnovers and outrebounded the Panthers 31-22.
Findlay got excellent balance, with Adams scoring 21 points, Roth 13, Makrancy 10 and Strzempka eight. Moore had five points, but matched that total in steals and assists.
FINDLAY (9-4, 6-3 TRAC)
Strzempka 4-5 0-0 8, Moore 2-7 1-4 5, M. Roth 5-11 0-0 13, Adams 8-12 4-5 21, Makrancy 4-6 0-0 10, Weihrauch 1-3 0-0 2, J. Roth 0-0 0-0 0, Montgomery 1-4 0-1 2, Ross 0-1 0-0 0, Bishop 0-0 0-0 0, Mueller 0-2 0-0 0. TOTALS: 25-52 5-10 — 61.
TOLEDO WHITMER (4-8, 2-7 TRAC)
Mee 2-4 0-0 6, Purley 0-3 0-0 0, Delvaux 2-8 1-2 5, Keller 2-7 0-0 5, Boecker 5-7 0-0 11, Howard 4-5 0-0 9, Brown 0-2 0-0 0, T. Phenix 0-0 0-0 0, J. Phenix 1-2 0-0 3, Colbert 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 16-38 1-2 — 39.
Findlay 13 11 19 18 — 61
Tol. Whitmer 14 2 17 6 — 39
3-Point GOALS: Findlay 6-9 (Moore 0-1, M. Roth 3-4, Adams 1-2, Makrancy 2-2); Toledo Whitmer 6-19 (Mee 2-4, Purley 0-3, Delvaux 0-1, Howard 1-1, Brown 0-2, Keller 1-5, J. Phenix 1-1, Boecker 1-2).
rebounds: Findlay 31 (Adams 5, Strzempka 5, Weihrauch 4); Toledo Whitmer 22 (Keller 5, Delvaux 4, Boecker 4).
turnovers: Findlay 11; Toledo Whitmer 19.
junior varsity: Toledo Whitmer, 44-42.