Warriors lose substate semifinals to Hesston, 49-35
No one at Marion Sports and Aquatics Center was particularly surprised when undefeated Hesston took a 23-10 lead to the locker room at halftime Thursday against the Marion High School boys basketball team in substate semifinal action.
The Swathers, ranked number one in Class 3A, had pummeled Sedgwick 71-40 in the first round, the sixth time in nine games Hesston had won by more than 30 points. Hesston had won 21 games with an average margin of victory of 22 points, and they appeared poised for another runaway win against the Warriors as the third quarter started.
But Marion had a surprise of its own in store, energizing the Warrior fans with a 12-2 run that cut Hesston’s lead to only five with 3:34 left in the quarter. While Hesston regrouped to advance with a 49-35 win, the Warriors made it anything but easy.
“We had trouble scoring the first half, and we came out pretty determined in the third quarter and really cut into the lead,” coach Jeff McMillin said. “Most of the game we were fighting right there with them. They got a few more buckets to fall than we did.”
Marion went to work after Hesston opened the quarter with two free throws, racing down the court on a fast break by James Jones that drew a goaltending call on the Swathers. The Warriors’ Timothy Knolla nailed a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 25-15, and answered a Hesston bucket by hitting a floater in the lane and another trey to pull Marion within seven points, 27-20. Jacob Baldwin was fouled going up for a shot on a rebound and sank both free throws to trim the Hesston lead to five.
The Warriors had a chance to draw within three when they forced a Swather turnover on the next possession. Knolla picked up the loose ball, dribbled behind his back to break into the open, and split two Hesston defenders for a layup attempt that didn’t fall. Hesston went back up by eight when Wyatt McKinney scored a free throw after being fouled on a made bucket, and by the end of the quarter the Swathers were back in control, 35-25.
“It would take us a lot of energy, a lot of work to whittle it down to six or five or eight, and it would just balloon on us again,” McMillin said. “That’s what good teams do, they bend but don’t break, and then they make a run on you.”
Marion got back to within eight, 36-28, but Hesston stretched the lead to 17 in the final quarter before the Warriors’ Zach Robson hit a trey as the game clock expired. The bucket served as a fitting punctuation point to the determination the Warriors displayed in holding the eventual substate champions 12 points under their season scoring average.
“We had five seniors that didn’t want to be done playing and wanted to make a statement. It didn’t make a statement on the final score, but I think we did. We know we gave all we had — we left it all out there. I feel real proud of them,” McMillin said.
Robson led Marion in scoring with 12 points, and Knolla tallied nine. Grif Case was the Warriors’ leading rebounder with five, and Taylor Heidebrecht had team highs in steals, 5, and assists, 3.
Marion finished the season with a record of 13-9.