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Saturday, February 24th, 2007

St. Henry grabs overtime win from charity stripe

By Randy Bruns

St. Henry's Josh Werling, with ball, tries to drive around Marion Local's Alex M. . .

ST. HENRY - Free throws are often the last thing a basketball team works on in practice, but Friday night they were the single biggest factor at Redskin Gymnasium.
The St. Henry Redskins got it done from the charity stripe while the Marion Local Flyers struggled mightily with their freebies, and the result was a 66-65 overtime win for the hosts.
St. Henry ends its regular season with a 12-8 overall mark and 6-3 ledger in the Midwest Athletic Conference, while Marion finishes 8-12 on the year and 4-5 in league play.
St. Henry connected on 21-of-29 (72 percent) from the foul line while Marion went just 7-of-16 (44-percent) on their unguarded shots, and in a game decided by a single point, it's not much of a stretch to say the game was won at the line by the Redskins.
And yet, interestingly, it was the Redskins' foul-line struggles that helped the Flyers send the game to overtime. Up by three with under a minute remaining in regulation, the hosts missed a pair of one-and-bonus opportunities that could have made things very difficult for the visitors.
Instead, the Flyers made the most of their reprieve thanks to a seldom-used bench player.
Marcus Moeller, a sophomore who had played in the junior varsity contest earlier in the night, drove the lane for a bucket that brought the visitors within one with 35 ticks remaining. St. Henry's Tyler Post then hit one-of-two free throws with eight seconds left to set the stage for a last attempt by Marion.
Moeller came to the rescue again, as he skied to rebound a missed jumper and tipped it in at the buzzer to send the game to extra minutes.
The extra period was filled with more back-and-forth action, as the Redskins took an early two-point lead but the Flyers climbed back on top when Chris Stucke drilled a three-ball from the wing. The hosts countered with three straight points, but Tyler Obringer scored from close range to tie the game with 35 seconds left.
Following a timeout the Redskins held the ball for a last shot and got the next best thing when Zack Thobe drove the baseline but was fouled with just over three seconds remaining. The senior drilled the first of two freebie, and following a Flyer rebound of his ensuing miss, the best the visitors could manage was a desperation 30-footer that missed its mark to end the game.
After the game, Marion coach Keith Westrick could only lament his team's missed opportunities.
"Free throws killed us and we had a couple of really foolish mistakes at the wrong time," said Westrick. "At this point in the season you really need to limit mental mistakes and there were a couple of them that turned the ball over into (St. Henry?s) hands. When it looked like we were in control of things we would miss free throws or commit another turnover."
In contrast to Marion's lineup, St. Henry had a veteran group on the floor late in the game and coach Joe Niekamp thought their leadership was key.
"Tonight was Senior Night, and those guys really stepped up," said Niekamp. "It was a big night for them, and poised is a good word to describe how they played. Even after Marion got that tip-in to send the game to overtime, the kids didn't put their heads down. They just wanted to get it done."
Fittingly, a pair of seniors led the Redskins in scoring, as Andy Puthoff and Mitch Niekamp combined to hit 12 of the 16 shots they took in scoring 17 points apiece. Chris Stucke led the Flyers with 18 markers and Jordan Schmackers came up big off the bench to notch 12.
Both teams begin tournament play Tuesday with opening-round games against MAC opponents. St. Henry will play Parkway at Elida in Division III sectional action, while Marion takes on New Bremen at Coldwater in a Division IV sectional matchup.
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