St. John’s Ryan Buescher puts up a shot over a St. Henry defender in a district game at the Elida Fieldhouse Friday. The Blue Jays won the game and the district title. (Times Bulletin/Tom Morris)
St. John’s Ryan Buescher puts up a shot over a St. Henry defender in a district game at the Elida Fieldhouse Friday. The Blue Jays won the game and the district title. (Times Bulletin/Tom Morris)

Times Bulletin Correspondent

ELIDA - The last time St. John's and St. Henry played - back at "The Vatican" on Jan. 25 - St. Henry dominated the paint en route to a 71-57 victory in a MAC boys basketball game.

Kyle Stahl had scored 22 points, Alex Post 16 and Ryan Mikesell 15 in that contest, but this time around Stahl was held to 13 points and Mikesell 14 by the Jays' zone.

The Jays outrebounded the Redskins 30-27 and used stellar shooting from both the field and the line to oust the Redskins 63-46 in a Division IV District final Friday night on the Union Bank Court of the Elida Fieldhouse.

St. John's seniors Ryan Buescher and Curtis Geise led the way. Buescher pumped in 24 points, with 11 boards, four steals, and three blocks, while Geise was a perfect 11-of-11 from the line as part of 23 tallies on the night.

"Our adjustment was simply to defend the paint better. We gave up way too many points in that paint that night," St. John's coach Aaron Elwer explained. "We've been playing with much more sense of urgency defensively. The kids have bought into the need to play better defense and have executed our game plans extremely well since. We were going to make them beat us over the top and fortunately, they weren't hitting from outside."

St. Henry coach Eric Rosenbeck agreed.

"We have talked as a coaching staff all year that if anyone was going to beat us, it was going to be forcing us to shoot over the top and not make shots. That's what happened tonight. Credit St. John's for making that adjustment," he continued. "We've been shooting the ball from the perimeter well lately, especially Jordan (Bender), but no one was hitting tonight. They did the same thing tonight as they did the first time - surround Kyle - but the shots weren't falling when he passed out of that."

The Jays (19-5) advance to take on Jackson Center at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Kettering Fairmont Regional. It will be there first such trip since 2002, the year they won state.

"Coach Elwer and the coaching staff made a great adjustment from the first time and we carried it out. All credit goes to them. They killed us in the paint that night but not tonight," Geise acknowledged. "It's better to beat them this time because we were fortunate to still get a tie for the MAC championship. Ryan and I have played a lot of ball together but this was definitely one of the best games I've seen him play."

The first period was one of spurts. The Jays got off to a 5-0 start, despite giving up six offensive rebounds early and getting beat 11-6 overall on the boards in the quarter. The Redskins (22-4) then seemed to get going behind four from Stahl and Mikesell to take a 10-5 edge on a Mikesell basket at the three-minute mark.

The Jays then retaliated with the last five of the period on a deuce from Geise and a duck-under three-point play with 32 seconds on the board for a 10-all tie.

The second period is when the Jays' 1-1-3 zone began to take control. St. John's forced the Redskins to shoot over the top, with St. Henry finishing 6-of-25 for the half, including missing all 10 three-pointers. On the other end Buescher began to get on track against the St. Henry man defense. Junior Ryan Koester's drive with 3:55 on the clock gave the Jays the lead for good, and when Buescher put back a transition miss with 20 seconds left, the Blue Jays led 23-14.

The St. John's defense continued to force the Redskins to shoot over the top in the third and the strategy continued to work wonders. The Redskins managed only 3-of-13 shooting, despite getting six more offensive rebounds.

On the offensive side, the Jays were simply more aggressive, getting to the line six times, hitting all six. After leading by as much as 36-16, when Geise hit both ends at the 8.9-tick mark, the Blue Jays' edge stood at 38-21.

Geise hit an off-balance drive early in the fourth period to account for a 40-21 edge, forcing the Redskins to employ a more aggressive, full-court trapping scheme and committing fouls to try to get back into the contest. The Jays' superb free-throw shooting in the final 6:53, hitting 15-of-18 in that span, allowed for the 'Skins to only get within 57-46. The Blue Jays ended the contest with a 6-0 spurt to account for the 17-point triumph.

"We have three things we really focus on, especially in the tournament: defense, rebounding and free-throw shooting. Again, the defense is playing at such a high level, and we are either staying even or outrebounding bigger foes. That is nothing but attitude and effort," Elwer added. "No one exemplifies that more than Ryan. He is such a good athlete and he plays with such heart and energy. Free throws, we just put such an emphasis on them in practice, and we carry that over into games. We have such confidence coming into a game and go to the line with that same attitude."

St. Henry finished with a 19-of-54 shooting night (35.2 percent), including 4-of-23 beyond the arc (17.4 percent), and 4-of-8 at the line. St. John's ended up shooting 18-of-36 overall (50 percent), 5-of-13 behind the arc (38.4 percent).

ST. HENRY (46)

Kyle Stahl 6-0-1-13, Jordan Bender 1-1-0-5, Tyler Schwieterman 0-2-0-6, Jesse Evers 0-0-2-2, Kent Hemmelgarn 1-0-0-2, Alex Post 2-0-0-4, Mitchel Stammen 0-0-0-0, Caleb Bender 0-0-0-0, Jason Jacobs 0-0-0-0, A.J. Niekamp 0-0-0-0, Ryan Mikesell 5-1-1-14, Justin Ahlers 0-0-0-0. Totals 15-4-4/8-46.

ST. JOHN'S (63)

Andy Grothouse 0-1-6-9, Ryan Buescher 8-2-2-24, Eric Clark 0-0-1-1, Ryan Koester 1-0-2-4, Curtis Geise 3-2-11-23, Cole Fischbach 0-0-0-0, Evan Hays 0-0-0-0, Tyler Conley 0-0-0-0, Seth Bockey 1-0-0-2. Totals 13-5-22/26-63.

Score by Quarters:

St. Henry 10 4 7 25 - 46

St. John's 10 13 15 25 - 63

Three-point goals: St. Henry, Schwieterman 2, Mikesell, J. Bender; St. John's, Geise 2, Buescher 2, Grothouse.