By BRANDON SHRIDER
BOWLING GREEN — North Baltimore had a 6-9 record back on Feb. 3.
Thirty-nine days later, the Tigers have 16 wins, the program’s first district title and its first appearance in a regional game.
But second-ranked Mansfield St. Peter’s was just better Tuesday night, and brought North Baltimore’s historic run to an end, beating the Tigers 72-45 in a Division IV semifinal at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center.
“We’re not making excuses. We got beat by a better team tonight,” North Baltimore coach John Kloepfer said.
“I’m not gonna sit here and say this and this is what cost us the game. What cost us the game was Mansfield St. Pete. They’re a good team. We just got beat.”
After winning just six games in two months, North Baltimore (16-11) rattled off six wins in its final seven regular-season games, then won four straight in its Division IV district — two over higher-seeded teams, in the final month-and-a-half.
But the Spartans’ (24-2) length and ability to score in transition were just too much for the Tigers.
Mansfield St. Peter’s will play Delphos St. John’s, a 40-25 winner over Holgate in the other regional semifinal at the Stroh Center, in a regional final at 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena.
After Julian Hagemyer opened the game with a 3-pointer on the first possession that sparked a 10-4 North Baltimore run in the first four minutes, St. Peter’s regrouped and answered with a 19-0 run that stretched into the early part of the second quarter.
“Defensively we just didn’t get where we were supposed to be. And when shots aren’t falling for us, sometimes it kinda wears on ya a little bit,” Kloepfer said.
St. Peter’s 6-foot-3 junior Mason Campbell finished with five blocked shots. He swatted a few Tigers’ shots early and the Spartans treated them as turnovers, ran the floor and finished with easy buckets at the rim.
Jake Gurski, a 6-4 senior, added two blocks and 6-3 junior Jared Jakubick added another for a defense that was a nuisance to North Baltimore all evening.
“Athletically they’re outstanding. They’re length, we had more shots blocked tonight than we’ve probably had blocked in 10 games,” Kloepfer said.
This spawned a style of game that fit the Spartans.
“I thought tonight they came out and they hit some shots early, jumped out on us and I thought we showed some good composure and got our feet underneath us and we’re able to sort of get the game at a fast tempo,” Spartans coach Joe Jakubick said.
“And when we’re able to get out in transition we tend to be a pretty good team.”
North Baltimore stunted the run with a pair of free throws from junior point guard Chase Naugle, a third-team all-Blanchard Valley Conference selection, and consecutive baskets by Hagemyer, a second-team BVC pick who finished with a team-high 19 points, that cut the Spartans’ lead to to single digits, 25-16.
Naugle finished with 12 points and just one turnover.
But St. Peter’s pushed the lead back to 15 when Jared Jakubick scored two of his game-high 21 points sandwiched around a mid-range jumper and another field goal by Elijah Cobb, who finished with 18 points.
“I think we ran into a buzzsaw. I don’t think they’re ranked (No.) 2 in the state for no reason,” Kloepfer said.
The Tigers took a 15-point deficit into halftime, but didn’t score until two minutes into the second half as the Spartans rattled off another 16-4 run to put the game out of reach.
Nearly every bucket St. Peter’s scored in the run was in transition, whether off a forced turnover, defensive rebound or another block.
“In the open court, I believe we’re a pretty talented team. I believe we’re pretty athletic and getting out and running just plays right to our strengths,” Jared Jakubick said.
Adding salt to the wound, the Tigers’ poor shooting carried over into the second half, hitting just 1 of 18 3-point attempts after knocking down its first try from behind the line, and converting just 4 of 14 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter.
“We got beat by a better team, that’s all there is to it,” Kloepfer said.
Levi Gazarek finished with six points, seven rebounds and two blocks for the Tigers. Tyson Kent scored 13 for St. Peter’s and Campbell added 11 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Despite the loss and seventh-place regular season finish in the BVC, North Baltimore accomplished what no other boys basketball team had done in program history.
That counts for something.
“We came from nowhere … These guys know what they’ve done,” Kloepfer said.
NORTH BALTIMORE (16-11)
Hagemyer 8-2–19, Naugle 4-3–12, Gazarek 3-0–6, Cotterman 2-0–4, Rader 1-0–2, Franjic 1-0–2, Brian 0-0–0, Flores 0-0–0, Bishop 0-0–0, Durfey 0-0–0, Matthes 0-0–0, Bumpus 0-0–0. TOTALS: 19-60 5-7 — 45.
MANSFIELD ST. PETER’S (24-2)
Jakubick 10-0–21, Cobb 9-0–18, Kent 6-0–13, Campbell 4-2–11, J. Gurski 2-1–5, Ramey 0-2–2, Rall 1-0–2, L. Miller 0-0–0, Henrich 0-0–0, Katsaounis 0-0–0, Tridico 0-0–0, Hahn 0-0–0, E. Gurski 0-0–0, Charettee 0-0–0, B. Miller 0-0–0. TOTALS: 32-55 5-6 –72.
North Baltimore 10 10 15 10 — 45
St. Peter’s 16 19 26 11 — 72
3-Point GOALS: North Baltimore 2-19 (Naugle & Hagemyer 1); Mansfield St. Peter’s 3-8 (Campbell, Jakubick & Kent 1.
rebounds: North Baltimore 29 (Gazarek 7); Mansfield St. Peter’s 37 (Campbell 8).
turnovers: North Baltimore 12, Mansfield St. Peter’s 11.