ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DIANE MAYS
For putting up so much fight, the Marion Warriors had little to show for their efforts at this year’s Trojan Classic.
The Warriors opened Monday night on the short end of a hard-fought 59-49 loss to a talented team from Thomas More Prep.
Marion started with authority, grabbing the first possession, as well as the first score by Jason Matz only 31 seconds into the game. But TMP’s Jeff Keberlein was quick to respond with a basket of his own and the two teams began trading scores.
Had it not been for a last-second foul against TMP’s Scott Hoffman while he was shooting for three, the first quarter would have ended tied at 13. As it was, Hoffman sank all three charity shots and the second quarter began with TMP ahead, 16-13.
Coach Rex Ostmeyer said the three-point foul was a key moment in the contest.
“It’s just a momentum thing, and we got our heads down,” he said.
In the second quarter, the Monarch took control of the scoring and built a 33-25 lead by intermission.
“The thing we didn’t do after the first quarter was match their aggressiveness,” Ostmeyer said.
The third quarter began much like the second, with TMP scoring eight unanswered points until Marion called a timeout to get themselves back in the game.
“We just came out and played terrible-the worst we’ve played all year-in the first three minutes of the second half, and the next thing you know we were down 41-25 and we were fighting an uphill battle from there,” Ostmeyer said.
Marion trailed after three quarters, 49-34, but did not give up. They racked up 15 points in the quarter, outscoring TMP by five for the final 10-point margin. They pulled to within eight points before Hoffman hit two free throws and brought the game to its final margin.
Matz and Brian Bina each had 12 points to pace Marion. Hoffman led the way for TMP with 18 points.
Sunrise 47, Marion 45
After dropping another hard-fought game to Hillsboro on Tuesday night, Marion squared off against Sunrise Academy of Wichita on Saturday to determine who would go home with fifth place.
The Warriors got off to a sluggish start, and that proved to be their undoing as they lost in the final seconds, 47-45.
After trailing by ten at the end of the first quarter, Marion fought back and, with only eight seconds left in the game, Alan Vogel scored a basket to tie the game at 45.
But in the final seconds of the game, Marion fouled twice and the Buffaloes cashed in with one free throw a piece from Alex Melugin and Victor Stevenson.
Sunrise won the tip-off and Melugin promptly scored two for the Buffaloes. Marion’s Brian Bina responded with a 3-pointer shortly thereafter. But from that point on, Sunrise slowly pulled away as the Warriors struggled to get into a rhythm.
The game changed composure when Marion switched from man-to-man to a zone defense.
“They were handling our man-to-man pretty well,” coach Rex Ostmeyer said. “I didn’t think we were playing a bad man-to-man, but you could tell they were a lot more proficient against a man than they were against a zone.”
With Sunrise struggling, Marion rallied to score seven unanswered points.
“It slowed them down and it pushed them out and made them play catch for a while, and that allowed us to get a couple of steals and they missed some shots and let us creep back into the game,” said Ostmeyer.
For all the effort, Marion still trailed at halftime, 23-18.
The third quarter was much the same as the second, with Sunrise befuddled by Marion’s zone. After eight unanswered points by Marion and four and a half minutes off the clock, Sunrise finally scored.
From that point on, Marion and Sunrise traded baskets, and the quarter ended with Sunrise ahead by one, 33-32.
The fourth quarter remained close. With Sunrise leading, 45-40, with 45 seconds left in the game, Brian Bina scored a 3-pointer. Marion called a timeout, still trailing by two.
Then with only eight seconds left, Vogel scored to tie the game. But the two free throws by Sunrise accounted for the disappointing loss.
Ostmeyer found some good things amid the disappointment.
“We fought back,” he said. “Tying it up inside of 10 seconds was big for us. It shows that we are making strides.”
Even though Marion was playing in a tournament with outstanding teams-none with more than two losses-Ostmeyer felt the experience will help his team.
“Obviously, these three teams that we played this week are all as good or better than the teams that are in our league.”