The Marion High School girls basketball team closed out the regular season with a 61-53 win over Smoky Valley Tuesday (Feb. 24). The Warriors finished third in the MCAA standings and secured the No. 4 seed?and the home-court advantage it provided for Monday?s substate contest with Halstead. Unfortunately for Marion, the home gym magic did not charm the Dragons enough to stave off a 51-46 first-round loss.
Halstead?The Marion girls led 14-10 through one quarter, in no small part because of hawk-eyed 3-point shooting. Lindsay Hett broke the scoreless tie with a left wing triple, which Kalee McGee immediately answered for Halstead. A moment later, McGee answered a Kristen Steinborn trey with a triple from the right wing corner.
Back-to-back Halstead 2-pointers gave them a 10-7 lead midway through the opening frame, but Kayley Heerey hit Marion?s third 3-point shot of the period to lift the Warriors into a 12-10 lead.
Julia Zeiner notched a short jumper to cap the quarter, and scored off a turnover to boost Marion?s lead to six starting the second quarter.
It rapidly devolved into one of the sloppiest quarters of Marion?s season. Combined with sluggish ball movement and poor shot selection, eight Warriors turnovers kept Marion stuck on 16 while Halsted rattled off eight straight points.
Trailing 18-16 after halftime, the Warriors continued to battle but made little forward progress through the third quarter.
After Hett?s short jumper cut it to 23-21, the Dragons scorched the Warriors with a 9-2 burst that mushroomed into a 15-4 flash heading into the final break.
Down by 13 starting the fourth, Marion played with a heightened sense of urgency, closing the gap to 39-33 with back-to-back treys by Bridget Lundy and Steinborn and forcing a Halstead timeout with 5:55 left.
Marion pulled within five on Lundy?s mid-range jumper, but the Dragons answered with a 5-0 spurt.
Just when the Warrior goose appeared to be fully cooked, Zeiner scored a layup-and-1 that made it 46-39 with 2:28 to play. She fouled out Kirsten Sooter on Marion?s next possession and cut the lead to six with the first of two bonus free throws.
Then Marion forced a jump ball and won possession, courtesy of the alternating arrow. Hett made the hustle play count with a short jump shot that cut it to 46-42 with just over a minute to go.
But the Warriors defense was unable to take the ball away from Halstead, leading to a foul and two McGee free throws at the 59-second mark.
Needing a basket to stay in the game, Marion committed a bad pass turnover with 53 seconds left.
The Warriors caught one last break when Danae Edwards goaded Alexi Bohling into shoving her?turning a Dragon?s possession into a chance for bonus free throws.
But a miss on the front end turned into a press break layup going the other way. Bohling tacked on the first of two free throws with 26 seconds left, and the Dragons all but clinched a spot in the second round with an offensive rebound of the subsequent miss.
Bohling led Halstead with 14 points, while Marissa Vermillion scored 13 and McGee tacked on nine. Rebecca Denny grabbed 12 rebounds for the Dragon cause.
Marion was co-led by Hett and Zeiner with 13 points apiece, while Heerey, reportedly hampered by illness, did not score after her initial triple.
Zeiner was held a rebound shy of a double-double and Whitney Gordon grabbed 10 rebounds. Marion out-rebounded Halstead in rate?but not total?at both ends of the floor, and as a team turned 13 offensive rebounds into 11 second-chance points. Marion outscored the Dragons 17-7 off of turnovers.
Apart from off-turnover scoring, the only glaring statistical discrepency between the teams? performances was in foul shooting. Both teams shot 50 percent from the line?but by virtue of a hard-earned advantage in quantity, Halstead outscored Marion 14-9 at the stripe.
Smoky Valley?The Warriors led Smoky Valley 15-14 through one quarter, but trailed by three at halftime. and by a 42-37 margin through three quarters. But MHS ran the Vikings off the floor in the final frame, 24-11.
Julia Zeiner (15 points), Lindsay Hett (13) and Kayley Heerey (14) led the Warrior offense, while Kristen Steinborn (6 rebounds) and Whitney Gordon (5 rebounds) grabbed half of Marion?s total rebounds. Smoky dominated the glass, 39-22.
For three quarters, Smoky kept the Warriors from turning defensive stops into easy scores, in part by routing their offense through foward Lori Dauer, who totaled 25 points and 18 rebounds.
But as guards Jordan Sherwood and Maggie Pihl sank deeper and deeper into foul trouble, Marion found the floodgates opening. Sherwood and Pihl both fouled out, and Marion totaled for 29 points off of 30 Vikings turnovers. Marion shot 29 free throws and outscored Smoky 17-12 at the line.
On the boys side, the Vikings ran away with the game, 71-43, despite Luke Gordon?s 17 points, 13 rebounds double-double.
Nearly half of Smoky?s scoring came from Chase Dippel, who totaled 35 points in just under 25 minutes of action?and Eric Harding threw in 18 of his own before the Vikings cleared their bench.
Mitch Leppke, Isaac Hett and Eric Vogel scored six points apiece for Marion, which trailed by 12 en route to a 45-19 halftime deficit.
The Marion boys post-season began with a visit to Hillsboro at 7 p.m. Tuesday (March 3).