Fans of Marion girls’ basketball left Centre’s gym Saturday with smiles on their faces and shorter fingernails, as Marion defeated Centre in a nail-bitter to win the Cougar Classic tournament.
By virtue of a 13-4 run in the second quarter, the Lady Warriors forged a hard-fought 9-point lead, 32-23, going into the final stanza.
But coach Kelly Robson pulled his players away from the basket and had them start to milk the clock as the fourth quarter began.
Centre closed the gap by capitalizing on Marion turnover and missed shots, and when Centre’s Katie Marler hit a 3-pointer, Marion suddenly trailed 34-32 with just over 2 minutes remaining.
The Lady Warriors answered immediately, tying the game on a basket by Marissa Jacobsen.
With 1:05 remaining, Marion’s Taelyn Pagel drove the baseline and was fouled. She hit the first of two free throws to put Marion ahead 35-34. Sam Richmond extended the lead to 37-34 on two free throws with :28 to go.
Centre had one last chance to tie when Richmond missed a free throw with :09 remaining, but Kourtney Hansen charged into the rebounding fray , ripped the ball away, and passed to a teammate to run out the clock and secure the championship.
Hansen, hampered by a gimmick box-and-1 defense most of the game, still topped Marion scorers with 13.
Marion’s semifinal game Friday against Rural Vista was an equally exciting affair, with Marion surviving a third-quarter scoring drought and coming from behind for a 53-51 overtime victory.
The boys carried momentum from a monster second-half against Elyria Christian into a repeat performance in Friday’s matchup against Herington.
Tied 21-21 at the half, Marion fell behind 26-25 early in the third, but Sam Zinn put the Warriors ahead for good with a trey and a 2 on consecutive plays. The Warriors dominated from that point forward, outscoring Herington 36-16 in the half to win 57-37.
Two Warriors, Zachary Stuchlik and Mason Pedersen, scored in double figures, with 19 and 16 points respectively.
Marion didn’t wait to get going in Saturday’s fifth-place 52-37 win against Wakefield.
Noah Dalrymple, Stuchlik, and Blaine Mermis had hot hands early and, combined with stifling defense, the Warrirors led 21-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The Bombers wouldn’t go away, but Mermis was the workhorse that put the game away, scoring 8 of the last 13 Marion points en route to a game-high 15 points.