St. John’s senior Tim Kreeger defends Holgate’s Jack Clady during Tuesday’s Division IV Regional semifinal at the Stroh Center at BGSU. (DHI Media/Jim Metcalfe)
St. John’s senior Tim Kreeger defends Holgate’s Jack Clady during Tuesday’s Division IV Regional semifinal at the Stroh Center at BGSU. (DHI Media/Jim Metcalfe)
BOWLING GREEN — It was apparent from the start of the St. John’s versus Holgate Division IV Regional semifinal that it was not going to be an offensive explosion. Both teams’ man-to-man schemes - with the Tigers collapsing on 6-8 senior Tim Kreeger - made it difficult. In the end, the Jays’ defense was at its stellar best in shackling the Tigers 40-25 Tuesday night on the Bill Frank Court of the Stroh Center on the campus of Bowling Green State University.

“It wasn’t pretty or great Xs and Os basketball; it was tough and all about survival. I am so proud of these kids and how we remain alive in the tournament; it was almost who was going to reach 40 first,” St. John’s head coach Aaron Elwer said. “This is one of the better groups I’ve had that is so trusting of the coaches and the scouting reports we put together, then they execute them as well as any. The last four or five games, we’ve really been good at that.”

The Jays’ man-to-man scheme stymied the Tigers (21-5) to a mere 9-of-38 shooting for 24 percent.

“We come to work every practice and work hard at becoming a better team, especially on defense. It all starts with chemistry,” senior Robby Saine said. “We start out looking to get the ball into Tim and then adjust to what the defense does from there; we all have to be ready to shoot the open shots we get. Tim and I were on the Regional final team two years ago as sophomores and that felt great, but this is even better; we feel we can do even better.”

St. John’s (20-4) moves on to a Friday night clash inside Savage Hall at the University of Toledo against Mansfield St. Peter’s, who ousted North Baltimore in Tuesday evening’s first game.

“I’m used to the physicality; the coaches work hard at practice to prepare me for this. This is like a normal Friday night game in the MAC,” Kreeger, who led the Jays with 14 points, nine boards and six blocked shots, said. “I’m used to the defenses we face and what teams try to do to me. I was also able to sag some in the middle; we had a good scouting report on (Jack Clady) and I knew the things he liked to do, so that made it easier.”

The opening period was especially close to the vest. Both teams were going to be patient and explore their options. They combined for 6-of-16 shooting in a low-tempo quarter. The Jays got off to a 5-0 lead on a 3-pointer by Jared Wurst at 6:22 and an Owen Rode deuce shortly after, only to see the Tigers rally to tie it up at 5-5 on on five points from Bailey Hohenberger.

Holgate’s first lead came on a drive by Jake Grim but Jays’ Saine drilled a 3-pointer at 1:38 for an 8-7 edge.

The second period saw Kreeger start to get lose for seven points, especially as 6-3 senior Jack Clady got his second foul at 3:55 and went to the bench (for only 1:40).

The Jays shot 5-of-10, and when Kreeger netted a hoop-and-harm at 2:30, their halftime edge was 19-14.

The third period really saw those defenses settle in and the game take on a more physical tone. The Tigers switched Clady off of Kreeger and went with the 6-3 Hohenberger to great effect, holding the Jays to a mere 2-of-9 shooting. On the other end, Kreeger was able to sag into the middle and alter or block shots, with the Tigers dropping only 1-of-8. The Tigers’ bucket came at 6:58 on a drive by Hohenberger and the Jays’ two buckets came at 3:19 by Wurst inside and at 1:07 on a coast-to-coast layup by Collin Will for a 23-16 lead after three.

The Jays took command in the fourth period, building up a 15-point lead several times as the Tigers could not rally.

They ran their offense to perfection, going 5-of-5 from the floor and 5-of-6 at the line and even getting a exclamation point dunk by Kreeger at 2:57.

In the meantime, Holgate managed 3-of-11 as their season came to an end.

“I felt we came out with some tired legs for some reason but we battled through that. Give Holgate credit for its tough defense; we had seen it on film but now we saw it live for 32 minutes,” Elwer said. “We were also concerned with their pursuit on the glass, especially offensive; some of their best offense comes from that. Usually, defense is the top priority we have on our board but today, rebounding was.”

***

ST. JOHN’S (40)

Robby Saine 2-5 0-0 5, Timothy Kreeger 6-9 2-3 14, Jared Wurst 3-7 0-0 8, Richard Cocuzza 1-1 2-2 5, Josh Warnecke 0-0 0-0 0, Owen Rode 1-5 0-0 2, Connor Hulihan 0-3 0-0 0, Collin Will 2-3 2-2 6. Totals 15-33 6-7 40.

HOLGATE (25)

Sebastian Briseno 0-0 0-0 0, Louis Gustwiller 0-3 0-0 0, Clay Waisner 0-0 0-0 0, Bailey Hohenberger 3-6 0-0 6, Trey Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Jake Grimm 4-`8 4-4 15, Jack Clady 2-10 0-0 4. Totals 9-38 4-4 25.

St. John’s 8 11 4 17 - 40

Holgate 7 7 2 9 - 25

Total Field Goal Percentage: St. John’s 45.5, Holgate 23.7. Free Throw Percentage: St. John’s 85.7, Holgate 100. Three-Point Field Goals/Percentage: St. John’s 4-14/28.6% (Wurst 2, Saine, Cocuzza), Holgate 3-9/33.3% (Grimm 3). Rebounds: St. John’s 28/6 off. (Kreeger 9), Holgate 19/7off (Hohenberger 6). Assists: St. John’s 6 (Kreeger 2), Holgate 6 (Gustwiler/Clady 2). Steals: St. John’s 5 (Kreeger/Hulihan 2), Holgate 6 (Grimm/Clady 2). Blocked Shots: St. John’s 7 (Kreeger 6), Holgate 0. Fouls: St. John’s 9, Holgate 12. Turnovers: St. John’s 12, Holgate 9,