Both Marion basketball teams faced Rural Vista Friday night in the semifinal round of the Cougar Classic. The Warrior girls defeated the Heat, 36-28, to advance to the championship, but the Warrior boys fell to Rural Vista in a neck-and-neck battle, 40-37.
GIRLS?Despite a slow start out of the gate, the third-seeded Marion girls battled back into contention with a strong defensive effort against No. 2 Rural Vista Friday night. The Warriors limited Rural Vista to eight points in the second half to seal a 36-28 victory.
Rural Vista surged to a 10-0 lead before Julia Hall scored Marion?s first points nearly five minutes into the opening quarter. After Kirsten Hansen got a steal and scored, the first quarter ended with the Heat in front, 12-4.
Katey Ehrlich scored the second quarter?s first points three minutes in to bring Marion within 12-6, but the Heat surged with five unanswered points before Ehrlich scored a basket at 2:55. That was the start of a 9-0 Warrior run fueled by a strong defensive effort. Bailey Robson nailed a three-pointer, followed by a Kaelyn Thierolf basket and a Robson basket off of a turnover. Suddenly, Marion was within 17-15. The half ended with Rural Vista clinging to a 20-17 lead.
Megan Richmond scored first to bring Marion within one, 20-19, but Rural Vista had an answer. Kelli Hess narrowed the gap to 22-21. The Heat responded with what would be their last basket of the third quarter at the 4:05 mark.
Marion turned up the heat and scored eight unanswered points to lead, 29-24, going into the final break.
Rural Vista broke its scoring drought with a basket less than one minute into the period to narrow Marion?s lead to 29-26. Kirsten Hansen scored at 5:31, and Hess and Hansen tossed in a free throw apiece to extend the lead to 33-26 with 1:24 to go. Rural Vista scored its final basket with 1:02 left in the game, and three free throws from Ehrlich sealed the eight-point Marion victory.
Ehrlich led the Warriors with 11 points.
BOYS?Fifth-seeded Marion?s semifinal game against No. 1 Rural Vista was a close one, but when the final buzzer sounded, Marion trailed by three, 40-37.
The Warriors stumbled out of the gate, allowing the Heat to build a 4-0 lead before Taylor Heidebrecht scored off a steal at 5:05. Rural Vista scored twice before Heidebrecht scored again to bring Marion within 8-4. The teams traded baskets, and the first quarter ended with the Heat in front, 12-6.
Marion cut the Rural Vista lead to 12-10 after a Timothy Knolla basket and two free throws from Grif Case. The next four minutes of scoring saw only three Rural Vista free throws before Jacob Baldwin ignited an 8-0 Warrior surge with a second-chance basket at 2:55. Knolla followed with a three-pointer that tied the game at 15. After a Case basket and Baldwin free throw, Marion led, 18-15. The Heat scored four unanswered points to reclaim a 19-18 lead at intermission.
Heidebrecht and Case scored back-to-back baskets to open the third quarter, and Marion maintained the lead until the Heat tied the game at 26 with a three-point basket. Case scored Marion?s final five points of the third quarter, and the Warriors clung to a 31-30 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Heat opened with a three-pointer to take the lead and maintained a slight advantage until Zach Robson scored at 2:18 to put Marion in front by one, 36-35.
Another three-pointer gave the Heat a 38-36 lead, and Marion took a timeout with 25.6 seconds left. The Warrior shot missed its mark, but James Jones grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Jones made one of two free throws to bring Marion within 38-37 with 12.8 left to play.
Marion sent Rural Vista to the line and caught a break when the Heat missed the one-and-one opportunity. The Warriors, however, could not grab the rebound and fouled again. Again, the shot missed, but Marion could not rebound. Marion sent the Heat to the line a third time with 8.5 left to play. This time, the Heat made two free throws to extend the lead to 40-37. A last-second Warrior three-point attempt missed its mark.
Case led Marion with 12 points.
COMING?The Marion girls will play in the championship game Saturday at 5 p.m. against the winner of No. 1 Centre and No. 4 Elyria Christian. The Marion boys will compete for third place Saturday at 6:30 p.m. against either No. 2 Centre or No. 3 Manhattan Flinthills.