PIQUA — Russia’s boys basketball team was impressive from the start Saturday night in a 69-41 win over Mechanicsburg in a Division IV sectional opener at Piqua’s Garbry Gymnasium.
The No. 3 seed Raiders (15-8) advance to play No. 6 Fairlawn in a sectional semifinal at 6 p.m. on Thursday in Piqua. The Jets (12-11) beat Lehman Catholic 50-30 in Saturday’s first sectional opener.
“We looked a lot at our last two games (losses to Marion Local and Anna) and we felt like we really didn’t do a good job of playing to our strengths,” Russia coach Dave Borchers said. “That is one of the things we really focused on coming in.”
Particularly, the size advantage of 6-foot-5 Daniel Kearns.
Kearns scored eight points in the early going and 15 in the first half as Russia used full-court pressure to create easy opportunities and when forced to run a half-court offense, found Kearns inside.
As a result, the Raiders jumped out to an 18-8 first quarter lead and stretched it to 36-19 at halftime.
“We felt like we had an advantage (with Kearns inside),” Borchers said. “It was great to see us come out from the ball and take advantage of that. The last couple games, it felt like we took some big punches before we responded. I felt like we came out with a lot more energy tonight.”
Mechanicsburg was never able to recover as Russia stretched the advantage to 54-30 after three quarters and cruised to the win.
Kearns finished with 19 points while Jordan York added 15 points. Carter Francis scored seven points, while Mason Dapore, Will Sherman and Adam Dapore all scored six.
It’s the first postseason victory for Borchers, who was a longtime assistant before taking over as head coach this year.
“That’s nice, but it is really not about me,” Borchers said. “It is about coming out, playing well and moving on in the tournament. I felt like we took advantage of our matchups and that is a big part of it in tournament basketball.”
Chris Taylor scored 17 points for Mechanicsburg and Joey Mascadri and Logan Hurst added seven points each.
Russia was 29-of-48 from the floor for 60 percent and 9-of-16 from the line for 56 percent. Mechanicsburg was 16-of-37 from the floor for 43 percent and 6-of-9 from the line for 67 percent.
Russia dominated the boards 27-12 and had 11 turnovers to the Indians’ 19.
The Raiders will now try for their third win over Fairlawn this year. They beat the Jets 64-29 on Dec. 21 and 65-54 on Feb. 4 in Shelby County Athletic League play.
Reach Rob Kiser at (937) 451-3336.