Saturday, March 3rd, 2007
Rangers, Flyers come away with sectional crowns
By Randy Bruns
Marion Local's Kurt Homan, right, pushes the ball up the floor past Minster's Ji. . .
COLDWATER - The Division IV boys sectional at The Palace had gained a reputation as being one of the toughest in the state, and Friday's action proved just why that is the case.
The New Knoxville Rangers, who came in with an unblemished record and sitting in the top spot in the final Associated Press state poll, had their mettle tested big time in the opening game by the undersized Fort Recovery Indians.
The Indians fired every arrow in their quiver but couldn't come up with the big play late and fell by a 51-46 decision.
By comparison, the second game was a much more sedate affair with a pair of league rivals facing off in a gritty and sometimes tooth-pulling ragged matchup.
The Marion Local Flyers squandered an eight-point second-half lead but recovered late in the fourth quarter and hung on for a 43-37 win over the Minster Wildcats.
Both winning teams claimed sectional championships and advance to play in the district semifinals Tuesday at Wapakoneta.
New Knoxville, now 22-0, will face Lima Perry in the 6:15 p.m. opening game, while Marion Local (10-12) takes on Ada in the nightcap.
New Knoxville 51, Fort Recovery 46
The old cliché about throwing out the records come tournament time was never more true than in this one.
Despite their 12-8 record, the Indians proved they were very much up to the task of trying to knock off the undefeated Rangers, as they started the game by grabbing a quick 6-0 lead.
Fort Recovery held a lead throughout the first stanza, but when the second quarter began the New Knoxville train began rolling.
The Rangers reeled off 12 unanswered points to the start the second quarter, establishing a seven-point lead that would prove to be their largest of the game.
The Indians simply would not go away, though, and they made their move in the third quarter as three straight buckets by Toby Metzger propelled them to a 33-32 lead midway through.
Things stayed tight the rest of the way, and the Indians took their last lead at 45-44 with under three minutes left in the game when Metzger drilled a long ball and Greg Kahlig converted an old-style three-point play.
After the teams traded unsuccessful possessions, Marcus Henschen made the play of the night when he drilled a three-ball from the top of the key to give the Rangers a 47-46 advantage with one minute left. After an Indian turnover, Josh Niemeyer added a layup to put the Rangers up by three with 39 ticks on the clock.
Fort Recovery had a chance to tie, but Metzger's bomb missed its mark and Henschen made a pair of freebies to put the game away.
After the game, New Knoxville coach Dan Hegemier talked about Henschen's big bucket.
"Things got spooky at the end, and we called a timeout and called a set for Josh (Niemeyer)," said Hegemier. "We knew they would probably have 10 guys all over Ross (Stienecker), so Marcus was to set an up-pick and if they over-played that, Marcus would be open. We told him if he had it to let it rip and he let it rip and it dropped through."
Fort Recovery coach David Patch could not have asked anything more out of his defense, which held the high-powered Rangers in check for most of the night.
"We did everything right defensively," said Patch. "Here we are guarding the MAC player of the year (Stienecker) with a 5-foot-10 kid, and on top of that we've got to struggle to guard their other weapons. We played an almost perfect game defensively."
Henschen and Stienecker did the major damage for the Rangers, as they scored 18 and 13 points, respectively. The Indians were led in scoring by a pair of youngsters, as freshman Kahlig poured in 19 and sophomore Metzger contributed 14.
Marion Local 43, Minster 37
When it comes to tournament play, wins don't have to be pretty, and this one certainly was not.
No one from Maria Stein is likely to complain, though, as the Flyers snared their first sectional title in three years by grinding it out against the Wildcats.
Things certainly didn't start well for Marion, as Minster forced three early turnovers and jumped out to an 8-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Little by little the Flyers worked themselves back in the game, though, and they took their first lead at 18-17 after Sam Schwieterman converted consecutive stickbacks late in the second.
Marion later built up an eight-point bulge early in the third, but Minster's Logan Sommer hit a pair of buckets to draw his team back within four.
The Flyers still held a five-point lead heading into the final stanza, but it didn't take long for that to evaporate. Evan Lee started the quarter with a long ball and Sommer followed with a conventional three-point play to push the Wildcats ahead 35-34 with five minutes remaining in the game.
With their backs against the wall, the Flyers responded decisively. Greg Hartings hit a jumper to give his team the lead, Dan Moeller followed with a steal and a layup, and Damon Bertke scored from down low to put the Flyers ahead 40-35 with under two minutes left.
The Flyers' foul-line struggles continued, as they made just three-of-seven down the stretch, but the Wildcats could not connect from three-point land and thus could never dent their deficit.
"Somebody once said that there are no style points at this time of the year," said Marion coach Keith Westrick. "You either survive or you pack up the uniforms and all we did tonight was survive. You have to look at the play we got from some of the kids off the bench, because we were searching for someone to give us to give us a spark."
Minster coach Mike Lee was disappointed that his squad could not come up with an answer for the Flyers late in the game.
"We would like to have about two minutes of that game back," said Lee of his team's fourth-quarter struggles. "It's been that way the last three weeks where we're right there ready to make a big turnaround in one key stretch and it doesn't happen. Lack of execution or lack of focus - whatever you want to call it, that's the frustrating part."
Sommer led all scorers on the night with 15 points while Alex Moeller came off the bench to lead Marion with 13 markers.