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Short-handed St. Paul holds off Margaretta

By JOSH MORGRET • Updated Feb 7, 2018 at 3:28 AM

CASTALIA — St. Paul suddenly could not make a free throw to save its life.

The Flyers missed four straight free throws in a span of 60 seconds, but their defense held tough.

Margaretta missed four potential go-ahead shots and could not convert at the end, falling to St. Paul, 47-45, in non-league action on Tuesday.

"I like the way we competed," St. Paul coach Mike Smith said. "Margaretta has been playing very, very well. I thought we were outstanding defensively."

The Flyers (9-7) went ahead when Nick Winslow split two free throws with 1:27 left in the game. The Polar Bears (7-9) could not convert and were forced to foul.

Jake Griffin and Winslow each missed free throws, but Margaretta was unable to cash in. The Polar Bears used their final timeout with 16.2 seconds left, but a 3-pointer from Dylan Morris was no good.

Paul Pearce split two free throws on the other end for a 47-45 lead and St. Paul used its foul to give to stop the clock with 6.8 seconds left. Margaretta could not get a shot off and a jump ball was called with .2 seconds left. After a timeout from Smith, a wailing attempt at a tip from Bailey Kimberlin was no good, giving St. Paul the quality road win.

"I thought we closed out on their shooters pretty well," Smith said. "You try to sink down on their shooters, but there was some nice kick-outs and they got some good looks. We were able to finish the possession by getting defensive rebounds."

A 3-pointer from Nick Winslow cut the Polar Bears' lead to 39-38 late in the third quarter, but Mitch Raifsnider scored as time expired for a three-point lead after three quarters.

Winslow and Ian Kashian's buckets to open the fourth quarter gave the Flyers the lead back. Griffin split two free throws to push the lead to 43-41. Margaretta responded with scores from Collin Lane and Kimberlin — the only two buckets that the Polar Bears made in the fourth quarter.

Treg Smith scored off of an offensive rebound on the other end for St. Paul with 3:58 before each team struggled offensively.

Margaretta committed 15 turnovers, 11 of which came in the second half.

"Those turnovers were big," Smith said. "I thought we held our ground. I don't know if we had anything to do with it or maybe Margaretta just got anxious. The game was going to be won in the trenches."

St. Paul jumped out to a quick 8-4 lead before Margaretta used a 8-2 run over the final 5:30 of the first quarter to take a 12-10 lead after eight minutes.

The second quarter was played close. Lane scored to open the quarter for the Polar Bears, but St. Paul bounced back and took a 21-18 lead when Griffin hit a jumper. A 3-pointer from Morris tied the game, 25-all at halftime.

Griffin drilled a triple to open the second half for the Flyers, but Morris and Nick Leibacher responded with 3s for the Polar Bears. Another 3-pointer from Leibacher pushed the Margaretta lead to 37-33 with 4:03 left in the third quarter.

"Our focus was to take away their inside game and be warriors," Smith said. "We handled their pressure pretty well. Going in, we knew they would throw different defenses at us and we had to be ready."

St. Paul was nearly done in by its free throw shooting. The Flyers made just 7-of-14 in the game, including 3-of-8 in the fourth quarter.

"We battled hard, but we just did not do things well that we had been doing," Margaretta coach Steve Keller said. "We turned it over in crucial situations. We had good looks, but late in the game, we shot jump shots."

Griffin led St. Paul with 16 points and seven rebounds while Winslow scored 14 points.

"I thought we were pretty good, offensively," Smith said. "It was a good high school basketball game. To win here is a big win for us."

Leibacher paced the Polar Bears with 16 points while Morris chipped in 12 points. Raifsnider hauled in 11 rebounds while Leibacher grabbed eight rebounds.

"Kimberlin is a heck of a player and I thought we played good defense on him," Smith said. "Leibacher is really good. He might not be their leading scorer, but to me, he is the most valuable player on their team and that is not to take away from anybody else."

The Flyers played without injured starter Nick Lukasko. Smith said it was just a sprain for the senior, who Smith hopes returns for the next game on Friday at Western Reserve.

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