LIMA – They’re getting better. They’re getting better.
Lima Senior boys basketball coach Shawn Allen repeated that theme over and over after the Spartans’ game against Toledo St. John’s on Tuesday night.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, better doesn’t always produce a victory, as Tuesday night’s 77-65 loss to St. John’s showed.
Or maybe sometimes, some parts of better break down. And that can be costly, too.
Lima Senior (5-7, 3-5 Three Rivers Athletic Conference) came back from 17 points down early in the fourth quarter to throw a bit of a scare into St. John’s when it got the lead down to five points with just over a minute to play.
But 31-percent shooting in the first three quarters put the Spartans in too big a hole to climb out of against St. John’s (12-3, 8-0 TRAC).
“I’m happy with our kids. They played extremely hard. The last three games we’ve played really well but tonight we just didn’t shoot it that well. That’s going to happen,” Allen said.
“We’ve gotten better in the last three weeks. We’re a different team than we were three weeks ago. We’re better,” he said.
Lima Senior had won three games in a row over Oregon Clay, Toledo St. Francis and Ottawa-Glandorf before Tuesday night.
Guard Anthony Glover led the Titans with 29 points, including 15 of 20 at the free throw line. Gabe Kynard had 14 points and 6-foot, 9-inch post player Parker Ernsthausen had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
St. John’s led 30-21 at halftime, was up by a dozen after three quarters and appeared on the edge of turning the game into a blowout when it went up 57-40 early in the fourth quarter.
But some pressure defense by Lima Senior and its best shooting of the night – 12 of 23 in the last eight minutes – got the Spartans back into the game.
It was something St. John’s coach Ed Heintschel has seen earlier this season.
“We have not shut the door on a number of opponents. There were probably three or four where we didn’t really close the door. I don’t know if the door was wide open tonight but it was open wider than you’re comfortable with,” Heintschel said.
“I think it has a little to do with ball-handling. We rely a lot on Anthony (Glover). Parker, the big kid, does a great job for us. He has the ball in his hands a lot and great things happen. But we need some of those other guys to be willing and able to put the ball on the floor a little more, draw contact and go to the foul line and make shots.”
Jay Thomas led Lima Senior with 28 points, including three 3-pointers. Rico Stafford had 19 points and Ruben Flowers scored 10.
One of the contributing factors to Lima Senior’s slow start could have been early foul trouble for Stafford, who went to the bench with two fouls 3 ½ minutes into the game. He got 17 of his 19 points in the second half after scoring on only a pair of free throws in the first half.
“We could have quit and rolled over but we didn’t. That tells me what we’ve done the last three weeks isn’t a fluke, and they’re getting better,” Allen said.
St. John’s shot 52 percent (22 of 42) and had a 34-22 edge in rebounding. The Spartans committed only 12 turnovers and forced St. John’s into 18 of them, seven in the fourth quarter alone.