St. Paul senior Nick Lukasko drained a 3-pointer with 3:14 left in the third quarter of Friday’s non-conference boys basketball game at Huron. It gave the Flyers a three-possession lead at 36-29 — but just over a minute later, it was gone.
The Tigers (3-2) turned up the pressure, and the Flyers (2-1) didn’t handle it very well. A 16-0 scoring run in a 3:17 stretch allowed Huron to pull away in a 58-44 win over the Flyers.
St. Paul opened the season two weeks late last weekend with a pair of dominant wins over Monroeville (71-23) and Crestview (77-32) in Firelands Conference play.
But Huron is a team expected to contend in the highly-competitive Bay division race in the Sandusky Bay Conference — and its veterans looked the part in the second half on Friday.
“It was the first time a lot of our kids were put in certain situations, really,” St. Paul coach Mike Smith said of Huron’s big second half. “With only Paul (Pearce) and Nick back with court time from last year, it was a new spot for a lot of kids.
“They sped us up a bit, we kind of got out of control and turned it over, which led to easy baskets for them,” he added. “They became more aggressive.”
St. Paul quickly turned a 21-20 halftime lead into a 26-20 advantage in just 79 seconds, as Chris Ruffing, Jake Griffin and Nick Winslow scored for the Flyers.
It was a 28-27 St. Paul lead when Nick Winslow and Griffin again scored back-to-back — then Lukasko hit the 3-pointer after a Michael Hurst basket for the Tigers.
That made the lead 36-29 — and things got no better from there for the Flyers.
After a Chris Davis basket, Hurst — who finished with a game-high 23 points and missed just one shot in the second half — scored three straight times for the Tigers. Two of those baskets were off St. Paul turnovers, and by the 1:51 mark of the third, the Tigers had gone up 38-36.
Hurst then closed the third with a basket with just 6.3 seconds left — then capped the 16-0 run with a 3-pointer to begin the fourth quarter for a 45-36 lead. He scored 10 of the 16 points for the Tigers.
“We had done a great job on Michael Hurst, who is a great player, but then we kind of let him get going there,” Smith said. “It’s going to take some time to understand when we’re face guarding someone what we’re trying to do.
“Our game plan was to try and take the ball out of his hands and wear him down, and tonight he showed why he’s a really good player,” he added.
Chris Ruffing scored with 6:04 left in the game to snap a 5:10 scoring drought by the Flyers. That cut the deficit to 45-38, but St. Paul got no closer than 50-42 with 2:38 left on a pair of free throws by Pearce.
Nick Winslow finished with eight points, while Lukasko and Nate Winlsow each scored seven, and Ruffing and Griffin each scored six.
On top of the turnovers in the second half, the Flyers were just 7-of-18 (38 percent) shooting from the free-throw line.
“They upped the intensity and we didn’t,” Smith said. “We’re going to learn from tonight, put it behind us and get better. The free-throw line didn’t help us, and we missed a lot of those early, but we have to understand it’s a team with some young players out there who haven’t gone through this a whole lot.”
A stern test awaits the Flyers in a quick turnaround tonight when they host Edison (5-2).
“(Bryce) Roberts is a tremendous player and then obviously with James Hill, you’ve got two four-year veterans,” Smith said of the Chargers. “We’re going to have our hands full, but we’re also looking forward to the challenge.
“Hopefully we can get back at it and get a win,” he added. “We knew tonight was going to be a challenge, but this is the only way you get better.”
Huron made it a sweep in the junior varsity game, winning by a 55-44 score. Alex and Ian Kashian each scored 13 for St. Paul, while Noah Avendano added 12 points.