Marion edges Hillsboro in close battle, 54-52

Marion’s Sam Zinn shoots for two as Hillsboro’s Caleb Potucek defends during the first half Tuesday. Zinn scored a game-high 19 points in Marion’s 54-52 win. Janae Rempel / Free Press
Marion’s Sam Zinn shoots for two as Hillsboro’s Caleb Potucek defends during the first half Tuesday. Zinn scored a game-high 19 points in Marion’s 54-52 win. Janae Rempel / Free Press
In a highly-contested battle between two Marion County teams, the Marion boys’ basketball team held a two-point advantage over Hillsboro when the final buzzer sounded Tuesday, 54-52.

Hillsboro led, 33-32, heading into the fourth quarter, and in a game that came down to the wire, the final seconds saw frenzied activity.

With 36 seconds to play, Sam Zinn made a basket, drew a foul and completed the traditional three-point play to put the Warriors ahead, 51-47. Seven seconds later, Darian Ratzlaff recorded a three-point play on the other end of the court, bringing the Trojans within 51-50.

After a pair of free-throws by Zinn extended Marion’s lead to 53-50, Hillsboro had a chance at a tying three-pointer, but the attempt missed its mark. Noah Dalrymple grabbed the rebound and drew a foul. He made one of two attempts to stretch Marion’s lead to four.

With 1.9 seconds remaining, Ratzlaff drew a foul on a three-point attempt. After making the first two charity shots, he intentionally missing the third to give Hillsboro a shot at a last-second put-back, but Brandon Nguyen secured the rebound to seal Marion’s two-point win.

“We did just enough to stay ahead,” Marion coach Terry Edwards said. “Not always the smartest ball, but we talked about closing out on shooters, giving them one shot.”

Hillsboro took an early lead to start the game. Boosted by three three-pointers courtesy of Caleb Rempel and Jorge Hanschu, the Trojans enjoyed a 15-10 lead after one quarter of play. But Marion tied the game at 25 apiece by halftime, thanks in part to a seven-point scoring effort by Eli Hett in the second quarter. An 8-7 Hillsboro advantage in the third quarter set up the final period.

“We have to clean up our offense,” Hillsboro coach Darrel Knoll said. “We have to be better offensively and take better shots.

“On the last free throw, I just wished the rebound would come off a little softer, because I thought we had things set up decently well. We got the position we wanted, but it just wasn’t easy to get the ball the way it came off so hard. … We just didn’t play well enough, especially on the offensive end tonight.”

Ratzlaff led the Trojans with 14 points. Wes Shaw scored 13, including 11 points in the fourth quarter. Hanschu scored 11. Hillsboro shot 35 percent from the field (20-for-57).

Meanwhile, Zinn scored nine of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter. Hett joined him in double-digit scoring with 16 points. Dalrymple had nine points and nine rebounds. Marion shot around 43 percent from the field (22-for-51).

Coming— Marion was scheduled to host Moundridge Tuesday to start league play and will return to the court Jan. 4 by hosting Inman. Hillsboro was scheduled to host Southeast of Saline Tuesday and will resume play at home versus Halstead Jan. 4.