LIMA — A 14-point second-half deficit wasn’t enough to keep Defiance down as the Bulldogs stormed back for their second double-digit comeback in their last three games on Saturday, rallying for a 53-50 victory at Lima Central Catholic to cap off the regular season.
Sophomore Cayden Zachrich scored 11 of his team-best 13 points in the fourth quarter for the Bulldogs (14-8), which fell behind 33-22 at the half following a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Lima Central Catholic’s Evan Unruh that sent the Thunderbirds (12-10) to the locker room up double-digits.
The Bulldogs chipped away at the LCC advantage coming out of the break, trailing by six entering the final stanza thanks to a matched sense of intensity, according to head coach Bryn Lehman.
“We just played a lot more gutsy,” said the DHS mentor. “Early on we were very passive, we let them be the aggressors and the tide turned when we toughened up. We rebounded it a ton better, we just made little plays that we didn’t in the first half. A lot of it was attention to detail.”
A pair of bench buckets on a trey from freshman Ta’Marrion Davis and a layup by senior Connor Black — his first points of the season — marked five of the Bulldogs’ 15 points in the third quarter while point guard Bradyn Shaw hit a pair of 3-pointers in an eight-point period and an 11-point contest.
In the final stanza, Zachrich took over, scoring 11 of Defiance’s 16 points on four buckets and three makes at the charity stripe.
“Part of it was that we threw in another ballhandler in there, (freshman) Ta’Marrion (Davis) came in and did a great job,” explained Lehman. “He and Bradyn (Shaw) did a much better job of handling their pressure so when they were able to get us into our halfcourt offense, they weren’t sped up as much and on balance.
We got it to Cayden and got much better looks because of that. And Cayden was passive in the first half and in the second half when he was aggressive and we handled the ball better from the perimeter, we got much better looks inside because of that.”
David Jimenez battled foul trouble and hit a key fourth-quarter longball to finish with 10 points for Defiance.
Unruh was deadly from long distance, draining seven trifectas and pouring in 26 points for the Thunderbirds, coached by Defiance College graduate Frank Kill. Rossy Moore added 14 markers for LCC, but only three of those points came in the second half.
With the regular season complete, Defiance will turn its sights towards the Division II postseason. The Bulldogs will host red-hot Van Wert (11-10), winners of 10 of its last 11, in a D-II sectional championship Saturday at 6 p.m.
Lima Central Catholic will compete Saturday at 6 p.m. in a Division III sectional final against either Lima Bath or Delphos Jefferson.
DEFIANCE (53) — Shaw 11; Frederick 2; Jimenez 10; Schlatter 8; Lammers 0; CJ Zachrich 4; Nafziger 0; Cay. Zachrich 13; Black 2; Davis 3. Totals 21-46 5-8 53.
LIMA CENTRAL CATHOLIC (50) - Foster 0; Moore 14; Stolly 0; Unruh 26; Otto 0; Rinehart 0; Parker 4; Hines 0; Moore 2; Bourk 4; Guagenti 0. Totals 19-49 4-12 50.
Three-point goals: Defiance 6-23 (Shaw 3, Jimenez 2, Davis), Lima Central Catholic 8-20 (Unruh 7, Moore). Rebounds: Defiance 28 (Schlatter 7), Lima Central Catholic 34. Turnovers: Defiance 13, Lima Central Catholic 12.
Defiance 13 9 15 16 — 53
Lima CC 14 19 10 7 — 50
Reserves: Lima Central Catholic, 50-29.