PAULDING- The Delphos St. John’s Blue Jays kicked off their Division IV tournament run on Friday night at Paulding High School as the Blue Jays faced off against the Hicksville Aces for the Northwest District sectional final.

The Aces used a strong third quarter to take the lead and eventually prevail over St. John’s by a score of 58-57.

No matter how you slice it, the 2017/2018 basketball season for the St. John’s program will be a memorable one as they celebrated their 100th year and 1,500th win.

And as in the fickle nature of tournament basketball, only one program can end their season with a win.

The Aces started the contest strong as Parker Theil got the bucket and the foul shot to finish the 3-point play and help Hicksville jump out to a 7-2 lead. Both squads quickly exchanged 3-pointers as Jared Wurst connected for St. John’s and Payton Tunis did the same for Hicksville — 10-5, Aces. Back-to-back buckets from Richard Cocuzza and Collin Will cut the Ace advantage to 10-9. Hicksville looked to close out the first quarter with a 5-1 run but Grant Csukker drained a late triple for the Blue Jays to send St. John’s down just two, 15-13.

St. John’s opened the second quarter with their foot on the gas petal as they went on an 11-1 run, getting five points from Brady Grothaus — 24-16. Hicksville quickly responded with an 8-0 stretch to tie the game at 24-24. St. John’s - with under two minutes in the second period - got buckets from Cocuzza and Will. Later on, Will stole the ball with seconds left on the clock and got the buzzer-beating layup to send St. John’s into the intermission up 30-24.

In the third quarter, Hicksville showed why they were an 18-win team as they exploded for 19 points. The Aces got a 3-pointer and a 3-point play from Jake Greer as Hicksville closed the Blue Jays gap to 37-34.

“We were up eight midway thru the second quarter and Hicksville went on a 8-0 run and we didn’t use a timeout because I trusted our guys and we responded with a 6-0 run to close out the half. The third quarter, we really struggled to get stops and that hasn’t been us all season. Credit to Hicksville who was able to make plays; our inability to stop them on defense for stretches of the game really hurts us,” said St. John’s basketball coach Aaron Elwer.

Hicksville eventually tied the contest up at 39-39 and took a 1-point lead into the final period, 43-42.

Early in the final quarter, Landon Turnbull got a splash from behind the arc for the Aces and St. John’s responded with a triple from Wurst, 47-46 Blue Jays. Theil continued his strong performance after a bucket and foul gave the Aces a 3-point play and put Hicksville up 50-47. Greer added a layup to put Hicksville up 52-47. St. John’s tied the game up at 52-52 with a layup from Cocuzza and a Lucas Metcalfe corner 3-pointer.

With St. John’s down 54-53 and under a minute on the clock, Tunis stepped to the foul line for the Aces and calmly drained two foul shots. Cocuzza cut the Hicksville advantage to 56-55 with a layup but the Aces hit Tunis with a long pass on the inbound for an easy layup, 58-55, Hicksville.

The Blue Jays caught a break when with 21 seconds, the Aces missed two foul shots that surely would have sealed the game. With time working against the Blue Jays, Cocuzza made a layup with three seconds on the clock but with a running clock the Aces weren’t forced to inbound and picked up the victory.

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“This isn’t the team we were for 21 games, so it’s very hard to go out like this but our district is really tough,” Elwer added. “No easy ones and that is an 18-win team that has had a great year. I’m happy for Hicksville but I’m also happy for other guys that a tough locker room. I have told our guys that it will take a while to get over this but at some point we will take a step back and relive this year; it’s been a great year. A tough schedule and we became a tough squad that got better each day. This is a historical team; we are the 100th team in this program’s history and we picked up the 1,500th win. You aren’t defined by one loss.”

The Blue Jays say good bye to six seniors who have given their all to a historic program: Cocuzza, Will, Connor Hulihan, Matthew Miller, James Garrett III and Troy Elwer.

Hicksville 58

Payton Tunis 6-9 2-2 17, Michael Meyers 0-2 2-4 2, Jake Greer 5-8 3-7 14, Parker Theil 5-10 7-8 17, Landon Turnbill 3-7 3-4 10 Gage Yoder 0-1 0-0 0, Total 19-37 17-25 58

St. John’s 57

Curtis Schwinnen 0-1 1-2 1, Jared Wurst 5-11 2-5 14, Richard Cocuzza 8-10 0-0 16, Connor Hulihan 0-4 0-0 0, Collin Will 5-7 0-0 10, Grant Csukker 1-2 0-0 3, Brady Parrish 2-3 1-2 5, Brady Grothaus 2-3 1-1 5, Lucas Metcalfe 1-2 0-0 3. Total 24-43 5-10 57

H 15 9 19 15 58

D 13 17 12 15 57

3-Pointers: Hicksville 3-9 (Tunis, Greer, Turnbill), St. John’s 4-12 (Wurst 2, Csukker, Metcalfe). Rebounds: Hicksville 19 (Greer 8), St. John’s 19 (Cocuzza 6). Assists: Hicksville 7 (Meyers 3), St. John’s 8 (Cocuzza 4). Turnovers: Hicksville 9, St. John’s 11. Fouls: Hicksville 11, St. John’s 19.