MILLBURY — Perrysburg 6-foot-5 senior Avery Hunt scored 16 points to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 53-41 Division I district semifinal win over Toledo St. Francis Tuesday at Lake High School’s Flyer Fieldhouse.
Hunt’s play was evident on both sides of the floor, including defending the Knights’ 6-5, 200-pound senior forward Ryan Coop, who had 10 points and six rebounds.
“I thought everybody played their roles real well tonight,” Perrysburg coach Dave Boyce said. “I thought Avery had a fantastic game. He got to the basket, and he really played their big kid strong.”
Matt Watkins, a 6-4 senior guard, had 13 points and four steals and 6-0 junior shooting guard Austin Shultz scored 13 for Perrysburg.
The issue for the Jackets was scoring against the Knights’ defense, which can lull even the best of offenses to sleep.
The Yellow Jackets shot 55% (23-for-42) from the floor and had just five turnovers, while the Perrysburg defense caused 11 St. Francis turnovers.
“I thought we showed a lot of patience,” Boyce said. “I thought our shot selection was really good, and we made good shots at good times.”
Watkins said his team was in dress rehearsal for the zone all weekend leading up to this game.
“We practiced that all week,” Watkins said. “We knew they were a good zone team. I don’t think we expected them to run it for how long they did it for, but I thought we adjusted well.
“And that is what you must do. It is winner go home, so every game you are going to see something a little bit newer. Teams are going to give you their best shot and that is a real good team.
“That’s why I didn’t want to play them because they are really good, and they have a lot of good ballplayers, but down the stretch we just executed the way we needed to,” Watkins continued.
In the second half, Perrysburg even went to a full court pressure defense, which appeared to speed up the game, but Boyce said it was for other reasons.
“We just tried to change defenses a little bit to keep them off balance,” Boyce said.
The game was closer than the final score indicated as Perrysburg never got to a double-digit lead until Hunt was fouled driving to the basket, making two free throws to put the Jackets up, 48-37, with 2:39 remaining.
Hunt’s free throws were part of a 12-0 run that ran three minutes and 20 seconds of the final stanza, starting with a baseline three-pointer by Watkins and ending on a basket by Hunt with 1:30 remaining.
That gave the Jackets a 51-37 lead, which was too much for the Knights to overcome.
Avery Hunt’s twin brother, 6-5 senior Andrew Hunt, contributed seven points and 6-3 senior Matt McEwen contributed three points and had four rebounds.
When we say “contributed,” however, there were others who contributed who did not score. Guys 6-3 junior starter Gavin Fenneken, McEwen and 6-3 senior Matt Hubbard always “contribute” even if it is not represented in points.
“Hubbard comes in and just changes the game with his hustle, and Matt McEwen is a lot more talented in a lot of different ways than people realize,” Boyce said. “He does a lot of things. He is a real smart player.”
Hubbard often comes in just to play defense down the stretch when the game is on the line, and he accepts the role without asking questions.
“He is just awesome,” Watkins said. “He and Gavin are both awesome. Gavin has a great basketball IQ, doesn’t turn the ball over and just does a lot of really good things.
“Matt Hubbard is just relentless on the boards and an all all-around great teammate — you know, a lot of energy off the bench. It’s just great to have both of those guys on the team.”
St. Francis had a 25-18 advantage off the glass, but that was partly due to six dead ball rebounds that went their way. The Knights shot 41% (16-for-39) from the floor and were 5-for-6 from the free throw line, while Perrysburg made 3-of-5 from the charity stripe..
St. Francis sophomore point guard Jameson Heck, a Rossford native, led the Knights with three 3-point goals and 11 points.
Senior forward Reche’ Dixon had nine points and a game-high nine rebounds, junior point guard Elvis Syroka scored six points, and junior forward Vince Ferguson and senior forward Nate Bacon added two points each.
Despite the size of Coop, Kachmarik said his team had to make up for a lack of height.
“We’re tiny, so we had to try and play zone,” Kachmarik said. “Man-to-man, they are bigger than we are.
“I’m proud of our guys. We won four games last year, we won 10 more this year, won a sectional title and hopefully we’re heading in the right direction.
“Perrysburg is a good team. I don’t know, if maybe the “RPI” (rating system for seeding) wasn’t used, they’d probably be the No. 1 seed,” Kachmarik continued.
“Dave has done a heck of a job. They have good upperclassmen and they’ve been playing together for a long time.
“But it was good. The kids fought until the end. We had some turnovers in the fourth quarter and that was kind of the game.”
Perrysburg (19-5) moves onto the district final at 7 p.m. Friday at Flyer Fieldhouse to take on Lima Senior (17-7), which defeated Bowling Green (11-13) in overtime, 55-52, Tuesday. St. Francis bows out at 14-10
The Perrysburg-Lima Senior winner advances to the Division I regional semifinals at the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena.