Paige Gaynier of St. John's led her team with 20 points in their 53-44 win over Jefferson on Friday. (DHI Media/Joe Dray)
Paige Gaynier of St. John's led her team with 20 points in their 53-44 win over Jefferson on Friday. (DHI Media/Joe Dray)
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DELPHOS — In what has become an annual tradition, the girls basketball season opened up with a game between crosstown rivals as St. John’s hosted Jefferson. The Lady Jays pulled away in the fourth quarter and won the game 53-44.

“Coach Lindeman did a good job and Jefferson had a good gameplan coming into tonight,” said St. John’s head coach Nate Stant. “I’m really proud of the way our younger players stepped up.”

Senior Paige Gaynier led St. John’s with 20 points and Melanie Koenig added 14. Alycia Lindeman had a team-high 16 points for the Lady Cats.

Jefferson opened with a 7-2 advantage before Gaynier landed her first bucket of the night to cut the lead to 7-4. The Cats continued to roll in the first quarter and held a 12-6 lead with 3:00 to go. Kaylee Buzard hit a jumper but Gaynier hit a 3-pointer with under a minute on the clock and made it 14-10.

“We told the girls to play outside defense,” said Jefferson head coach Denise Lindeman. “We preached it to them before the game and at halftime to play defense. St. John’s just got the better half of us.”

The Jays battled back to take the lead early in the second quarter. Koenig and Elly Wrasman each connected on layups and Abby Buettner hit a 3-pointer to swing the lead in favor of St. John’s 17-14. Hannah Wiltsie drained a triple for the Cats to tie the game at 19 but the Lady Jays fought back to take a four-point lead with under 2:00 remaining in the first half.

Buzard connected on a 3-pointer with :45 remaining in the first half to tie the game at 25-25.

St. John’s jumped out to an early lead in the third quarter and held a four-point advantage with 1:00 remaining. A pair of late fouls by the Blue Jays allowed Jefferson to go 4-for-5 from the line and tie the game at 35-35.

A steal and score by Gaynier to begin the fourth quarter put St. John’s in the driver’s seat but a 3-pointer by Josie McGue swung the momentum back in favor of the Lady Cats as they took a 32-39 lead.

The Blue Jays tied things up at 42-42 and a 3-pointer from the right wing by Wrasman with 3:06 left on the clock, was the turning point of a well balanced game. Emma Will came through with a layup with 1:56 remaining to give St. John’s their biggest lead of the night.

“What a big 3-pointer by Elly Wrasman,” Stant said. “It’s a part of Elly’s game that hasn’t always been there, so for her to put the work in during the offseason and hit the big shot, is huge.”

Jefferson was forced to foul and the Lady Jays ended the game by going 7-of-8 from the foul line. Gaynier scored nine of her 20 points in the final quarter.

“We had some unforced turnovers late in the game and that is something you can’t afford against a team like St. John’s. We ran the offense well but our shots just didn’t fall. We are going to learn from the loss and get better every day,” Lindeman concluded.

Jefferson 14 11 10 9 - 44

St. John’s 10 15 10 18 - 53

Jefferson (44)

Alycia Lindeman 16, Alyvia Lindeman 8, Kaylee Buzard 7, Hannah Wiltsie 6, Josie McGue 3, Mallory Bridges 2, Lauren French 2

St. John’s (53)

Paige Gaynier 20, Melanie Koenig 14, Elly Wrasman 7, Abby Buettner 6, Ema Will 4, Erika Moenter 2