By Rob Kiser
The Piqua boys basketball team responded to the challenge from coach Steve Grasso Saturday night.
One night after its worst defensive effort of the season, the Indians came through with their best.
That and some timely free throw shooting sparked the Indians to a 48-39 victory over St. Marys at Garbry Gymnasium.
The Indians improved to 4-6, while the Roughriders dropped to 3-8.
Piqua was coming off a 96-41 loss to Trotwood-Madison on Friday night.
In that game, Devon Brown scored 16, Mick Karn had 11 and Ben Schmiesing added 10.
“I challenged the kids,” Grasso said. “Last night (Friday) was the most points we had given up. I challenged the kids to step up on the defensive end and they did.”
Piqua had a 23-22 halftime lead, were up 35-33 after three quarters and outpointed St. Marys 13-6 in the final eighth minutes.
“We only gave up 17 points in the second half,” Grasso said. “Our biggest lead was at the end of the game. That shows we were playing our best defense at the end.”
St. Marys defense kept Piqua from getting going throughout the game.
“Give them credit,” Grasso said. “We would get a five or six point lead and they would hit a shot. But, we had some big defensive stops when we needed them. We like play more in space and St. Marys was physical on defense and packed it in. This was one of the most physical games of the year.”
The most surprising element may have been Piqua’s free throw shooting.
The Indians struggles at the charity stripe are no secret — they entered the weekend shooting 44 percent as a team.
And after going nine for 18 through the first three quarters, there was no indication of a big change.
But, in the fourth quarter, Piqua was a deadly nine for 11 from the line.
Hayden Schrubb, Qurri Tucker and Karn were all 2-for-2.
Schmiesing was 2-for-3 and Cory Cottrell hit one of two.
“We made the free throws when we needed to,” Grasso said. “That just shows our focus and was good to see.”
Schmiesing had another double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Schrubb scored nine points and Brown and Karn both scored eight.
“Mick (Karn) has really given us a spark,” Grasso said. “He can shoot the ball. He missed his first couple free throws, but then he made them at the end. And he has the ability to get to the basket and get to the line.”
Drew Jacobs led St. Marys with 10 points.
Braeden Dunlap scored nine and Colin Clements and Max Mielke grabbed five rebounds.
Piqua was 13 of 36 from the floor for 36 percent and 18 of 29 from the line for 62 percent.
St. Marys was 15 of 41 from the floor for 37 percent and six of 12 from the line for 50 percent.
Piqua won the battle of the boards 27-22 and had seven turnovers to St. Marys nine.
Piqua will look to continue its momentum on the road Tuesday against winless West Carrollton.
St. Marys (39)
Braeden Dunlap 3-1-9, Austin Wilker 1-1-3, Ethan Mielke 2-0-4, Drew Jacobs 3-4-10, Colin Clements 3-0-7, Sam Young 0-0-0, Max Mielke 2-0-4, Bo Kuenning 1-0-2. Totals: 15-6-39.
Nick Rigola 0-0-0, Devon Brown 3-2-8, Hayden Schrubb 3-2-9, Qurri Tucker 2-2-6, Ben Schmiesing 2-7-12, Mick Karn 2-3-8, Cory Cottrell 0-2-2, Trey Richmond 0-0-0, Xian Harrison 1-0-3. Totals: 13-18-48.
3-point field goals — St. Marys: Dunlap (2), Clements. Piqua: Schrubb, Schmiesing, Karn, Harrison.
Score By Quarters
St. Marys 11 22 33 39
Piqua 9 23 35 48
Records: St. Marys 3-8, Piqua 4-6.
Reserve score: St. Marys 64, Piqua 49.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.