FOSTORIA A truest measure of a team might be what happens when its key pieces aren't in the game.
With 4:12 left in the third quarter, Hopewell-Loudon's Tyler Imes headed to the bench with his third foul. His post partner, Weston Hill had been on the pine for two and a half minutes in the same situation.
On top of that, the Chieftains' best player, Alec Gregg, had just come out with a shoulder injury.
Hopewell-Loudon was leading St. Wendelin, 36-31, but it wouldn't last.
It wouldn't last because Hopewell-Loudon's Ryan Lommerse and Adam Black made sure the loss of their teammates didn't matter. The pair hit back-to-back 3s to put the Chieftains up 11, 42-31, and they didn't look back, beating St. Wendelin, 67-55, in the Division IV sectional semifinal at Fostoria High School.
St. Wendelin coach Jim Rutter said that was the difference.
"We tried to change defenses just for a second because we were going full court man and we were hanging with it, even though they were so much bigger than us," Rutter said. "When (Gregg) went out, we went to our 2-2-1 press and 2-3 zone. And Lommerse hit a big 3 in the corner and (Black) hit one from the other side. It went from a 5-point game to an 11-point game. Bang. Bang."
Hopewell-Loudon coach Adam Smith said his team responded when it needed to.
"We've got guys who can step up. It's kind of like we spin the wheel every game to see who's going to step up and who's going to not show up," he said. "I thought Ryan Lommerse played great. When Alec was on the bench, Garret Sendelbach did a great job recognizing they had switched defenses and getting us into something that worked."
That 3-point shooting was something that didn't go away as the Chieftains were 10 of 13 from outside the arc on the night.
"I know Alec Gregg. I coached his dad so I know he can shoot it. We knew Lommerse could shoot it," Rutter said. "When you're trying to match up when you're undersized like we were with Hill and Imes together, we had to give something away. You have to give up something up when you're trying to help on something like that and we weren't able to really get back out on the shooters as quick as we could."
Gregg had five of those 3s on his way to 27 points with Lommerse accounting for another three on his way to 14 points.
"Ryan Lommerse shot well. Alec shot well. It's one of those games that both teams shot the ball well from outside," Smith said. "They cooled off at the end, thankfully."
It was St. Wendelin (7-16) who was electric from outside the arc in the first half (6 of 9), building a 20-13 lead before the Chieftains (11-12) came storming back. Hopewell-Loudon scored on eight straight possessions to take a 29-25 lead into halftime.
"I thought once we got our tournament jitters out of the way, there were times I thought we played pretty well," Smith said. "I didn't know if St. Wendelin was going to miss a 3 for a while. That was scary."
Zach Miller had a double-double for the Mohawks with 24 points and 10 boards. Nick Schumaker added 10 off the bench in the loss.
"We were outsized. They were bigger than us. Alec Gregg had an outstanding game. I imagine if it wasn't his best game of the year, it had to be awful close. He did what seniors are supposed to do when they had a few down spots," Rutter said.
In the night cap, New Riegel beat Bettsville, 90-21, to set up a Chieftains-Blue Jackets matchup in the second game of the sectional final Friday night.
Bettsville coach Chad Garberich said they had been planning for this game since the draw happened.
"We worked for three weeks now since the draw on a stall offense," he said. "We tried to get through to them that if we run five, six minutes off at a time, anything can happen. But you know, New Riegel is so sound fundamentally sound defensively, after the first two minutes they started switching things. And even though we worked on those switches as well, see it live, New Riegel speed is just a completely different scenario."
That New Riegel speed led to 19 turnovers and a 35-0 lead before Bettsville could get on the board with a Kasey Hossler 3-pointer. By half it was 50-8 and the Blue Jackets bench was emptied.
New Riegel coach Todd Aichholz said his team needed to make sure it had no letdown coming off a big win Friday night at Old Fort.
"We wanted to come out tonight and be aggressive. It's who we are and what we do. We didn't want to lose that aggressive instinct and I thought our starters did a nice job, right from the tip defensively," he said. "We had a lot of things to work on for Friday night against Hopewell-Loudon."
In the end, the starters saw little playing time and the bench saw plenty. Brandyn Reinhart scored 15 points in a half of action. Chad Cassidy had 11 points with Korey Williams and Aaron Acree each adding 10 apiece.
"Come tournament time, you have new guys meshing together, gelling together because the JV team is up and I thought this was a good opportunity to see different guys playing together tonight," Aichholz said.
Bettsville was paced by Tommy Kipps (six), Kennedy Hossler (five) and Casey Hossler (five).
Garberich said his four seniors, Kipps, Logan Robinson, Kennedy Hossler and Jacob Grine, have meant a lot to the program, one he's seen come a long way since the fall.
"They're all really good kids who come to practice and work really hard for me," he said. "From the beginning of the season from when we had them in November to now, there's been great leaps and bounds of (growth). Our scores have showed that over the season, from 97-6 against Lakota to a week ago, 56-29, and so forth. We got better and the kids never gave up."