As Jordan Hett’s last-second jumper caromed off the rim Friday against Trinity Catholic of Hutchinson, it looked as if the Marion High Warriors were headed to overtime in a tightly-contested battle against the host Celtics.
Then came the whistle.
Warrior Taylor Heidebrecht and Celtic Nathan Eisenbarth both reached for Hett’s miss, and Heidebrecht was called for a foul with a half-second remaining. Eisenbarth missed the first free throw, but nailed the second, and Trinity Catholic escaped with the 47-46 win.
The Celtic victory avenged an opening-season loss to the Warriors, and Marion head coach Jeff McMillin noted the progress Trinity Catholic had made across the intervening weeks.
“That’s probably one of the most-improved teams from the beginning of the season until now,” McMillin said.
Eisenbarth, who was scoreless in the first contest, was a primary reason for Trinity Catholic’s improved play, erupting for 11 first-quarter points en route to a team-high 15 points.
“We were not prepared for him, and I don’t know how we could have been,” said McMillin.
The Warriors displayed resilience in coming back on a night when baskets weren’t falling and they found themselves behind by 11 points in the first quarter.
Heidebrecht canned a 3-point shot and Hett dropped three free throws at the end of the first quarter to pull Marion back to within 5 points, 14-19.
Trailing by 1 point at the start of the fourth quarter, Mikael Antosyck gave Marion their first lead of the game, 35-32, when he dropped a 3-pointer.
Antosyck collected a layup off of an assist from Hett, who stole the ball and dribbled behind his back to save the ball from going out-of-bounds while tight-roping the sideline. Antosyck made a steal and drove for another layup, and Marion was ahead, 39-35, with 6:01 remaining in the game.
Scott Jones scored Marion’s final point at 1:58 when he made one of two free throws for a 46-44 edge. Celtic Dustin Ohl responded with a drive down the lane at 1:36 to tie the score, 46-46.
Marion had three possessions in which to break the tie, but committed one turnover and missed on three field goal attempts to set the stage for Eisenbarth’s game-winning free throw.
Cold-shooting hampered the Warriors, particularly in the early-going.
“We shot 32 percent for the game, and especially in the first quarter we were cold,” McMillin said. “We didn’t get a lot of shots to fall.”
McMillin said the Warriors were ready for Trinity Catholic, discounting the idea that Marion’s hard-fought win against fourth-ranked Sedgwick in their previous game might have affected the Warriors’ performance.
“We prepared against that,” McMillin said. “The kids kept playing hard, and we’ve been pretty tough.”
Jacob Harper led the Warrior scoring attack with 19 points, followed by Hett with 11.
Marion looks to improve on its 3-6 record in the Cougar Classic tournament at Centre, which started Tuesday and continues on Friday and Saturday.
Marion squared off Tuesday against Solomon in the first round of the Cougar Classic tournament at Centre.
The Warriors bounced back from Friday’s loss to defeat Solomon, 44-35.