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Friday, January 22nd, 2010
By Randy Bruns
Flyers all alone on top of MAC
Marion Local beats top-ranked St. John's
MARIA STEIN - It wasn't exactly the textbook way to put a basketball game away, but considering the circumstances, the Marion Local Flyers will take it.
The Flyers suffered a rash of missed free throws down the stretch, but had just enough in the tank to hold on for a rugged 46-44 victory over the St. John's Blue Jays, who came into the game ranked number one in the latest Division IV state poll.
The win, coupled with Fort Recovery's loss to Minster, leaves Marion alone on top of the Midwest Athletic Conference for the first time since 2005, when the Flyers ran the table to take the crown. Marion now stands at 10-3 on the year and 5-0 in the MAC while St. John's slips to 11-1 overall and 3-1 in conference play.
The Flyers held an eight-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the Blue Jays scored six unanswered points to pull to within two with five and a half minutes remaining.
A scoring drought of almost three minutes then ensued before Ashley Lochtefeld scored on a stickback to put the hosts back up by four.
Margaret Wuebker later knocked down a pair of freebies to push the lead to five but Courtney Grothouse drained her second triple of the quarter to pull the Blue Jays back to within two.
Thus began the Flyers' ill-fated march to the foul line.
Lochtefeld missed the front end of a one-and-bonus, but on the other end Grothouse's jumper was off the mark and Alyssa Winner grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Winner than whiffed on her free throw with 21 ticks remaining, but fortunately for the Flyers, the rebound was tapped out of bounds by the Blue Jays.
This time it was Rachael Puthoff's turn at the charity stripe, and the senior came up clutch by sinking both to put her team up by four. Zefiryn Bryan then drove the lane for a bucket with eight seconds left to pull the visitors back within two and Wuebker was immediately fouled.
The sophomore was unsuccessful on both of her tosses but the rebound was bobbled by the Blue Jays and they couldn't get off a shot before the final buzzer.
"We won that game by the skin of our teeth," commented a relieved Marion coach Treva Fortkamp after the contest. "I told the girls that a year ago we wouldn't have pulled that out, but that's what a year of experience does for you. We beat a good, well-coached team that was number one in the state, and there's a reason for that, because they're solid."
St. John's came out early and looked to the paint with regularity, as senior post player Lindsy Reindel scored the visitors' first six points.
Still, Marion held the lead for most of the first half until St. John's went on a 9-0 run to take a 20-18 advantage. The hosts clawed back and went into halftime leading by two before steadily building their bulge in the third quarter.
The Flyers had to find new sources for point production in this one, as the Blue Jays stacked the middle to guard center Katrina Brand, who had scored 20-plus in her past three games. Brand was held to just six points, but the senior did pull down a game-high 10 rebounds.
"We played them tough and gave ourselves a chance down the stretch, but we could never get over the hump," said St. John's coach Dan Grothouse. "With Marion Local, you're not going to be able to take everything away, and I thought we did a great job on Brand and not allowing her to take care of the inside. I thought we did a good job there, but their shooters hit enough threes and we knew they were going to have an opportunity to knock down some of those."
Puthoff was the main force behind the three-point arc for the Flyers, drilling three of her five bombs to help her lead Marion Local with 13 points. Wuebker added a trifecta of her own in notching 11 markers.
Bryan paced the Jays with 16 points while Grothouse added 12.
Marion gets a week off before returning to the rigors of the MAC with a trip to New Bremen next Thursday, while St. John's will play next on Saturday at Crestview.
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