The Flyers are 10-5 overall — a solid record with seven games remaining.
Aside from a Jan. 5 loss vs. Margaretta (11-4) and a Jan. 22 loss at Willard (12-3), the Flyers are a play or two away from being 13-2.
But the tough part of that: The three losses by 2, 2 and 4 points are each Firelands Conference games vs. Plymouth (67-65), Western Reserve (68-66) and South Central (74-70).
That means the Flyers are 10 points away from potentially being unbeaten and alone atop the FC standings — looking to win their first league title in 21 years. Instead, at 6-3, they are three games out of first with five games remaining.
“We just have to come into every game with the right mindset down the stretch,” St. Paul senior Jake Griffin said. “We know we are capable of beating any of those teams, all those losses are close. But we still get the opportunity to play South Central and Western and see what happens.”
St. Paul has a two-game FC slate this weekend at New London (8-5, 5-4) on Friday and vs. Monroeville (6-9, 2-7) on Saturday.
The Flyers are coming off a 55-52 win over Huron (7-8) when Griffin hit a fall away jumper with one second left. Despite the overall record, the Tigers have victories over Norwalk (13-2), Western Reserve (10-4) and Margaretta this season.
“We’ve been looking for, I’d say a signature win,” St. Paul coach Mike Smith said. “The win (Jan. 12) at Tiffin Calvert (11-5) was a nice win on the road, but we have the utmost respect for Huron and what they’ve done over the years.”
With seven games left, the Flyers still face the Roughriders, Trojans (12-3), Div. II Perkins (9-7) and St. Mary Central Catholic (13-2). They could lose all those games — but the season-long trend says they won’t be outmatched.
“The only thing we can control is ourselves right now,” Smith said. “Again, we play up, I know I’ve said that a lot, but there is a reason for that. You get in tough situations.
“The league schedule is what it is, but to play those teams, we’re looking to embrace that situation and get better,” he added. “The long-term goal is to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year — and that hasn’t changed.”
St. Paul is in the Div. IV Willard district, which is loaded with quality teams. On top of South Central, Margaretta, St. Paul and SMCC, the district includes Colonel Crawford (12-3), Lucas (10-4) and Mansfield St. Peter’s (10-5).
With first-year coach Paul Roeder being one of the most accomplished scorers in Monroeville history, there will certainly be no shortage of historic antecedents with regards to current Eagles freshman Isaac Roeder, his nephew.
When Paul Roeder was a sophomore in 1973-74, he scored 50 points in a two-game weekend. That was no surprise, as he went on to finish with 1,015 points without a three-point line, good for fourth all-time in program history.
Last weekend, Isaac Roeder scored 52 points in a pair of games vs. New London and Mansfield Temple Christian. He had 29 on Friday in a 69-63 loss to the Wildcats, then added 23 in the 56-32 win over Temple Christian.
Isaac Roeder is averaging 16.9 points per game for Monroeville, which has equaled its best season in five years when it went 6-15 in 2013-14. Monroeville was 8-14 and sectional champions in the 2010-11 season.
Hot shooting ‘Cats
At the start of the season, longtime New London coach Tom Howell said this particular Wildcats team would be out of the norm.
“It’s a little bit different of a team than we’ve had the last couple of years,” Howell said after his team’s season-opening 50-35 win over Edison on Nov. 30. “When we run and share the ball is when we’re at our best. Once we get consistent and play for four quarters, we’ll be fun to watch and hopefully hard to beat.”
The Wildcats were certainly fun to watch this past Friday at Monroeville. New London connected on 14 shots from the three-point line in the 69-63 win. Ben Crawshaw (6) and Karson Howell (4) combined for 10 of those 3-point baskets.
For the season, New London (8-5, 5-4) averages 8-of-23 (36 percent) fro beyond the arc.
Speaking of Howell, the senior guard is quietly having an impressive season in a year where the FC is deep with elite scorers, as four players average more than 17 points per game in Plymouth’s Jacob Adams (24.2), South Central’s Simon Blair (21.5), Howell and Roeder (16.9).
For the season, Howell averages 17.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.5 steals per game for the ‘Cats. He is shooting 49 percent from the floor and 83 percent from the free-throw line.
Another close call
In virtually every season in every league, the eventual conference champion can point back to at least one game and know it survived a scare.
With five conference games left, the Roughriders have been in the position twice at home — where they will be Friday when they host last-place Crestview (3-12, 0-9).
On Dec. 28, the ‘Riders trailed visiting St. Paul, 66-65, when guard Luke Rowlinson made a left-corner 3-pointer with four seconds left in a 68-66 win. This past Friday at home vs. Plymouth, Western found itself down 40-38 with under a minute to go.
This time, Rowlinson connected on another 3- pointer, this time with 28 seconds left, which proved to again be the game-winning shot in a 41-40 win.
“There’s not a lot of kids who can be 2-of-10 from three at that point and still want to shoot the game-winner, and that young man caught the ball with belief that ‘Hey, I still want the ball regardless of what’s happened previously,’” Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon said of Rowlinson.
After hosting the Cougars, the ‘Riders visit Mapleton (4-10, 2-7) on Monday in a makeup game. They then have a rematch at St. Paul on Feb. 8 before the highly-anticipated trip to Greenwich to face the Trojans (8-1 FC).