The Marion High School girls’ basketball team surged back from a 13-point second-half deficit Friday against Bennington, but fell just shy of completing the comeback, losing 51-48 at USD 408 Sports and Aquatics Center.
Four Lady Warriors scored as Marion opened up a 14-8 first-quarter lead, but Bennington made up for a slow start with 21 points in the second. A 9-2 spurt in the final minute staked the Lady Bulldogs to a 29-24 edge at halftime.
Bennington stretched the lead to 39-26 with 2 minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter, and with Marion senior Whitney Gordon riding the bench with 4 fouls, the Lady Bulldogs threatened to run Marion out of the building.
The Lady Warriors would have none of it. Erin Meierhoff hit from the right side of the lane for 2, and shaved the lead to single digits, 39-31, by draining a long 3-pointer with :08 remaining in the quarter.
Marion kept pace early in the final period, but trailed by 9 when Marion head coach Randy Savage called a timeout with 2:55 to go.
Katey Ehrlich hit two free throws after she was fouled on a defensive rebound, and when Meierhoff sank another 3-pointer at 1:41, Marion was suddenly within striking range, 48-44.
With :33 remaining, Kaelyn Thierolf was fouled in the lane as she turned to shoot. Thierolf dropped home two charities to cut the lead to 49-47.
Gordon and Meierhoff combined to strip the ball on the ensuing inbounds play, and Gordon was fouled under the basket with :14 left. The first free throw found the mark, but Gordon’s second caromed off.
Trailing 49-48, Thierolf was forced into fouling Madison Wolf along the sideline with :04 remaining. Wolf scored both free throws to seal Bennington’s second victory in a week over the Lady Warriors, 51-48.
Marion scoring was well-balanced, with Ehrlich leading the way with 15. Meierhoff had 10, followed by Thierolf with 9, Gordon with 8, and Megan Richmond with 6.
Savage was frustrated by the narrow loss, particularly coming on the heels of two consecutive overtime losses.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t win, and I’d just about go out and steal one if I could, but I haven’t figured out how to do it,” Savage said. “We’re playing hard. Free throws were better. We just had some defensive lapses where we didn’t communicate what we were doing.”
While a game Tuesday at Sedgwick and substate tournament play remained, Savage sneaked a peak at next year as he reflected on the progress this year’s team has shown.
“They have to keep working and they have to keep progressing, but they can be awfully good next year,” Savage said.
Gordon poured in 19 points Feb. 14 at Inman, but it wasn’t enough to hold off a fourth-quarter rally from the Lady Teutons to send Marion to overtime for a second consecutive game. Inman escaped with a 44-41 win in the extra period.
Ehrlich and Kelli Hess scored 9 points each.