Delphos St. John’s senior Collin Will (30) looks to attack off the dribble during a Division IV regional championship game against Mansfield St. Peter’s at the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena on Friday, March 17, 2017. Will connected on a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Blue Jays clinched a trip to next week’s state tournament. (DHI Media/Jim Metcalfe)
Delphos St. John’s senior Collin Will (30) looks to attack off the dribble during a Division IV regional championship game against Mansfield St. Peter’s at the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena on Friday, March 17, 2017. Will connected on a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Blue Jays clinched a trip to next week’s state tournament. (DHI Media/Jim Metcalfe)
TOLEDO — St. John’s needed a player to step up and make a big play in the fourth period against Mansfield St. Peter’s.

They found two.

Senior Owen Rode scored eight points in the final quarter and junior Collin Will had two huge 3-pointers to help the Blue Jays seize a 44-43 victory in the Division IV Regional finals inside John F. Savage Arena at the University of Toledo.

“I went as a player in 1998 and when I came back to St. John’s 10 years ago, that was my goal to get us back. It’s a lot more stressful as a coach” St. John’s head coach Aaron Elwer said following the game.

The Jays (21-4) advance to the Jerome A. Schottenstein Center at Ohio State University at 5:15 p.m. Thursday.

St. John’s trailed 32-28 to begin the fourth and slowly closed within 33-32 on a basket by Rode, who finished with 16 points, at 6:03. The Spartans claimed a 35-32 edge on a Mason Campbell jumper, only to see the Jays tie it on a Will’s first 3-pointer from the right side at 3:40.

After Mansfield went up on a Campbell 17-footer, Will struck for a 3-ball from the other wing for a 38-37 edge. Jared Jakubick gave the Spartans a 39-38 edge on a drive at 2:36, but Rode nailed two foul shots at 1:44 for a 40-39 edge.

The Jays got the lead to 42-39 on two more Rode free throws and after Mansfield downed 2-of-5 foul shots to get within 42-41. After missed free throw opportunities on both ends, Jared Wurst hit a pair of foul shots for a 44-41 edge with 12 seconds left. Jakubick missed a shot and put in a follow at 0:01 but with no timeouts, time expired.

“We had the game plan and stuck to it. We all have the green light,” Rode said. “Coach Elwer says we are as unselfish a group as he’s had. When we needed someone to step up, it’s up to any one of us to do it and tonight it was Collin and me. Coach is confident in all of us to do that. It’s great to be going to State; I can’t wait to get there.”

“The shooting background here is a lot different than we’re used to but our student body and fans have been great supporting us all season,” Will said. “My first two shots didn’t go, so I just had to focus more on the rim and be confident. It’s great to be part of Coach Elwer’s first State semifinal after he got to the finals as a player.”

The Blue Jays sought to use the size advantage they had inside with 6-8 senior Tim Kreeger and he was effective, finishing with 12 points and 12 boards, despite the sagging man-to-man of the Spartans. On the other end, Mansfield tried to spread the floor out against the Jays’ man-to-man and use their 1-on-1 abilities to get inside the paint and to the rim.

In the opening period, the Blue Jays had the better of their game plan, shooting 5-of-11 from the field and winning the board battle 10-3. On the other end, Mansfield was 3-of-11. When Kreeger put back an offensive rebound at 15 seconds - his seventh point of the period - the Blue Jays led 12-10.

The second period saw the Spartans have more success breaking down the Blue Jay defense, especially Tyson Kent’s seven points. They canned 5-of-10 shots to the Jays’ 3-of-9 and they did a better job of staying even on the glass. When Campbell dropped in an and-1 at 1:00, their halftime lead stood at 25-21.

“We were fortunate they missed some free throws late; they are an outstanding shooting team. Perhaps we are a team of destiny with that,” Elwer said. “We needed someone to make a shot other than Tim because of the way they were defending him, and Owen and Collin were the two tonight; it could be anyone. Defensively, I felt that our better depth may have finally gotten to them over 32 minutes and maybe that is one reason they missed those free throws.”

The third period saw the pace slow down in the early part, with Mansfield even turning to a version of the Four Corners offense for a spell. That allowed the Spartans to build their biggest lead of 32-25 on a layup off a steal by Campbell at 3:02, causing Elwer to call time out. The Spartan defense was daring the Jays to hit from the perimeter and they struggled. It took a 3-pointer by Jared Wurst from the top of the key at 1:25 to get the Jays within 32-28 to close the third period and set up the exciting fourth.

***

ST. JOHN’S (44)

Robby Saine 1-2 0-0 3, Tim Kreeger 5-8 2-6 12, Jared Wurst 1-8 4-4 7, Richard Cocuzza 0-2 0-1 0, Josh Warnecke 0-2 0-0 0, Owen Rode 5-8 6-6 16, Connor Hulihan 0-3 0-0 0, Collin Will 2-5 0-1 6. Totals 14-38 12-18 44.

MANSFIELD ST. PETER’S (43)

Jonah Ramey 0-0 0-0 0, Mason Campbell 5-13 2-5 12, Elijah Cobb 2-4 1-2 7,Jared Jakubick 5-10 4-8 14, Jake Gurski 0-0 0-0 0, Tyson Kent 3-12 3-4 10. Totals 15-39 10-19 43.

St. John’s 12 9 7 16 - 44

St. Peter’s 10 15 7 11 - 43

Total Field Goal Percentage: St. John’s 36.8, St. Peter’s 38.5. Free Throw Percentage: St. John’s 66.7, St. Peter’s 52.6. Three-point Field Goals/Percentage: St. John’s 4-21/19% (Will 2, Wurst, Saine), St. Peter’s 3-10/30% (Cobb 2, Kent). Rebounds: St. John’s 35/9 off. (Kreeger 12), St. Peter’s 21/3 (Campbell/Gurski 5). Assists: St. John’s 9 (Cocuzza 3), St. Peter’s 3 (Jakubick 3). Steals: St. John’s 5 (Wurst/Warnecke/Rode/Will/Hulihan 1), St. Peter’s 6 (Campbell/Jakubick 3). Blocked Shots: St. John’s 2 (Kreeger 2), St. Peter’s 2 (Campbell 2). Fouls: St. John’s 16, St. Peter’s 14. Turnovers: St. John’s 12, St. Peter’s 6.