But the Flyers fell behind visiting Margaretta instantly, and never recovered in the 67-44 non-league loss on Saturday inside the Harvey Keller Gymnasium at the convocation center in Norwalk.
St. Paul fell to 6-3 with the loss, while the Polar Bears, who will be in the Division IV district this year with the Flyers, South Central and others, improved to 8-2.
“They are a very good team with good size inside, good guard play and experienced kids who can shoot the ball,” St. Paul coach Mike Smith said. “Tonight wasn’t our night. We got off to a poor start when they opened up a 6-0 lead and and were able to extend that.”
Margaretta took an 18-8 lead after one quarter, and again limited the Flyers to eight points in the second quarter as it took a 34-16 halftime lead.
St. Paul struggled with the defensive pressure from the Bears, while their outside shooting caused problems at the other end of the court.
“Their pressure wasn’t anything we didn’t expect, and they made some big shots,” Smith said of Margaretta. “When you look at them, you have to pick your poison. Inside, it’s (Bryceten) Hedden and (Mitch) Raifsnider, then you got Dylan Morris and Nick Leibacher outside. Morris might be one of best shooters all year, and the kid we wanted to help off of scored 11 points.”
St. Paul trimmed the deficit to 10 briefly in the second half, but the Bears still led 46-29 through three quarters. They outscored the Flyers by a 21-15 margin over the final eight minutes.
“We had some self-inflicted wounds. We didn’t handle their three-quarter trap, which again, wasn’t anything we didn’t expect. We didn’t turn it over a ton, but we didn’t get quality shots — and they are a very good team and the more physical and aggressive team was them.”
St. Paul is in the middle of a stretch that includes tough opponents like Western Reserve (7-3), Margaretta (8-2), South Central (8-3) and Tiffin Calvert (6-4). Teams such as Willard (6-3), Perkins (6-5) and St. Mary Central Catholic (8-1) still await in non-league play.
“We won’t back down with this schedule,” Smith said. “Margaretta is one of the best teams in our district and we kind of know what we’re up against now.”
In Saturday’s loss, Jake Griffin paced the Flyers with 13 points. Alex Kashian scored nine points, and Brandon Furlong added eight.
The night before, St. Paul scored 89 points in a win over Mapleton. The Flyers (3-2 FC) visit the Trojans (5-1) this coming Friday in Greenwich in a potential must-win game in Firelands Conference play for both teams.
“We got the one we wanted from the weekend,” Smith said. “We faced a very good team (on Saturday) that exploited some things we need to continue to work on. We’re going to put it behind us. You pick the good and the bad and learn from it and move on.
“On Monday, we’ll go get after it and start preparing for South Central in what we expect will be a championship environment,” he added. “It should be full house and a lot of fun. We’ll take it one game at a time and see where we lie here these next couple of weeks, but it starts Friday night.”
Smith talked about facing the Trojans, who are led by returning FC Player of the Year Simon Blair (22.2 points per game) among others.
“Obviously they are the defending champs and bring back a ton,” he said. “They are a very well-coached team and we have a lot of respect for them, but we’re looking forward to the challenge of trying to get back in this race.
“We will have completed the first round of league play after this one and could be very good in the second half,” he added. “But we just have to take care of ourselves right now. South Central has a really nice team and we our have hands full.”
In the junior varsity game vs. Margaretta on Saturday, St. Paul came away with a 27-24 win. Adam Baker scored 14 for the Flyers.
Mitch Raifsnider 3-0—6; James Weaver 5-0—11; Spencer Michel 1-0—3; Daltyn Wiedbrauk 5-1—11; Dylan Morris 5-0—11; Nick Leibacher 7-3—19; Josh Miller 1-0—2. TOTALS 22-6—67.
ST. PAUL (6-3)
Noah Good 1-0—2; Jake Griffin 5-2—13; Nick Winslow 1-3—5; Brandon Furlong 3-0—8; Nate Winslow 2-1—5; Ian Kashian 1-0—2; Alex Kashian 1-7—9. TOTALS 14-13—44.
Margaretta 18 16 12 21 — 67
St. Paul 8 8 13 15 — 44
3-point FGs: (M) Leibacher 2, Michel, Weaver, Morris; (STP) Furlong 2, Griffin
JV: St. Paul, 27-24