By DAVE HANNEMAN
TOLEDO — Opportunity was a heavy-handed visitor to the doors of Toledo St. Francis and Findlay High on Friday night.
The Knights answered; the Trojans did not.
“We talk all the time about this being a game of mistakes,” Findlay High coach Jim Rucki said after the Trojans fought back time after time, only to come up short in a 59-57 loss to St. Francis.
“We made a ton of mistakes. We really shot ourselves in the foot down the stretch.”
In a matchup that could well determine who finishes second to Lima Senior in the final Three Rivers Athletic Conference standings, St. Francis improved to 13-7 overall, 9-4 in the league. Findlay fell to 13-8, 8-5.
Findlay trailed by seven (45-38) entering the fourth quarter, and was still down 50-46 when St. Francis senior guard Rashad Craig beat the press for a lay-in.
It looked like the Knights, who had beat back three earlier Findlay rallies, might do so again, but not before a wild final four minutes.
Isaiah Moore scored off a steal by A.J. Adams to trim the deficit to two and Adams converted one of two free throws after another St. Francis turnover. When Eyalie Kouakou put up a 3-ball air ball, Adams drove for a basket, was fouled and converted the three-point play to put Findlay up 52-50 with 2:47 to play.
Following yet another steal by Adams, Moore drove for a left-handed scoop and the Trojans led 54-50.
That might have been the clincher against a St. Francis lineup that Findlay had beaten 70-50 in an early January game at Findlay High.
But that was then, and this was a different Knights’ team.
Feisal Crumby answered Adams’ 3-point play with a 3-pointer from the right corner. Cliron Hornbeak, a 6-foot-9 junior center who did not play in the earlier matchup, then followed costly misses and costly turnovers by both teams with a reverse layup, was fouled, and hit the foul shot that put St. Francis back on top 56-54 with 1:15 to play.
Findlay had four opportunities to tie the game or regain the lead. But a missed layup and three turnovers in the final minute ended those chances. St. Francis hit enough free throws to boost the lead to 59-54 before Moore tossed in a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“Losing the way we did down in Findlay, and to come back and get a win like this is huge,” said Travis Lewis, who went 4-20 and 7-17 in his first two seasons as St. Francis head coach, but has guided the Knights to three straight 18-win seasons.
“We graduated six seniors. We lost eight kids from our rotation. We started from scratch this year. It was like taking over a new job at the beginning of the season.
“But I really, really, really like coaching this team. They’ve been coachable, they’ve taken constructive criticism, they just bought in. This win is huge because I think it shows their character.”
Carsten Mayes, a 6-7 junior, led St. Francis with 15 points and seven rebounds. Crumby added 13 points and Craig and Hornbeak tossed in 11 each.
Adams had a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double for Findlay. Brock Makrancy knocked down four 3-pointers and had 14 points. Moore chipped in with 12.
Findlay made 6 of 15 3-pointers, 20 of 43 shots overall and outrebounded a taller St. Francis team 31-27. But the Trojans committed 17 turnovers, 11 of them in the second half.
“In a game like this, every single possession is so important,” Rucki said. “We could have gotten to more loose balls; we could have jump-stopped more; we could have done a million different things.
“For the most part we competed hard. We kept plugging away. We just shot ourselves in the foot, and that’s the agony of losing a closer game.”
FINDLAY (13-8, 8-5 TRAC)
Moore 3-8 5-7 12, M. Roth 3-7 0-0 7, Adams 7-14 6-9 20, Makrancy 5-8 0-0 14, Weihrauch 0-2 0-0 0, J. Roth 0-1 0-0 0, Montgomery 2-2 0-0 4, Ross 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 20-43 11-17 — 57.
TOLEDO ST. FRANCIS (13-7, 9-4 TRAC)
Craig 4-11 2-3 11, Kizer 0-3 0-0 0, Crumby 5-9 1-2 13, Mayes 6-7 33-4 15, Hornbeak 4-6 3-5 11, Kouakou 1-9 1-4 4, King 0-0 0-1 0, McClellan 2-4 0-0 5, Beredo 0-1 0-0 0, Huggins 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 22-51 10-16 — 59.
Findlay 17 13 8 19 — 57
Tol. St. Francis 13 20 12 14 — 59
3-Point GOALS: Findlay 6-15 (Moore 1-2, M. Roth 1-4, J. Roth 0-1, Adams 0-1, Makrancy 4-7); Toledo St. Francis 5-21 (Craig 1-3, Kouakou 1-7, Kizer 0-2, McClellan 1-3, Crumby 2-5, Beredo 0-1).
rebounds: Findlay 31 (Adams 10, Makrancy 6); Toledo St. Francis 27 (Mayes 7).
turnovers: Findlay 17; Toledo St. Francis 12.
junior varsity: Toledo St. Francis, 52-36.
FRESHMAN: Findlay, 44-36.