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Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Flyers top Blue Jays in double overtime

Five-way tie for first in the MAC

By Randy Bruns

Marion Local's Craig Niekamp, 21, goes over a Delphos St. John's defender for tw. . .

MARIA STEIN - The Marion Local Flyers threw a wrench into the Midwest Athletic Conference basketball standings with a thrilling 43-40 win over the St. John's Blue Jays on Friday at The Hangar.
The Blue Jays, despite having lost all six of their nonconference games, were alone on top the MAC standings until Friday's defeat. Now, with their 3-7 overall record and 3-1 league ledger, the Jays are smack in the middle of a five-way tie atop the conference.
The win pushes Marion to 5-4 on the year and 2-2 in league play.
For most of the night this one looked like many storied gridiron matchups between these two schools, with rough and tumble action all over the court. The Blue Jays grabbed their first lead midway through the first quarter and steadily built a seven-point cushion into the second frame.
A three-pointer by Ryan Mescher started a late-quarter run for the Flyers, and after a post move by Jesse Winner and a jumper in the lane from Craig Niekamp, the score was knotted at 17-apiece.
The visitors grabbed another seven-point lead at the end of the third quarter, but all it did was set the stage for a wild and wooly finish. The Flyers slowly crawled back, and Mescher's conventional three-point play gave them a 32-31 lead, their first since the game's opening minutes.
Following a triple by the Jays' Alex Recker, Mescher drained a pair from the charity stripe to tie things at 34-apiece with a minute left. Both teams had a chance to win in the final seconds, but a crucial turnover by the Blue Jays gave the Flyers the best shot. Unfortunately for the hosts, Alex Rosenbeck's two free throws both rolled off the rim and the game went to overtime.
In the first extra period the Flyers grabbed a two-point lead and looked to be in great position, but after a pair of missed freebies, Curtis Geise stole the ball and cruised in for a tying layup with eight seconds left. The Flyers then got the ball into the paint but rushed things a bit and the resulting shot fell far short of the rim to force a second overtime.
A quick bucket by Winner got the Flyers off to a great start in the second extra session, but unfortunately for the hosts they had to make several trips to their version of the Twilight Zone: the foul line. The Flyers bonked six straight from the stripe over the last two and a half minutes of the game, but fortunately the Jays weren't scoring on the other end either. Rosenbeck finally came up with a big steal that ended in a layup by Mescher with five ticks remaining, but even with a four-point lead it still wasn't over.
Geise made one of two free throws and the Jays forced an errant inbounds pass with a half a second left, but Jordan Leininger's 35-footer at the buzzer bounced harmlessly off the rim.
The Flyers ended up victorious despite a dismal 9-of-24 effort from the foul line that saw them miss 11 of their last 12.
"Free throws," muttered Marion coach Mark DeLaney. "That's all we've really got to talk about. It's a confidence thing and then it really starts to snowball. They're all feeling sorry for the guy at the line and wanting him to make his free throws but when they get up there they find it's a little harder than they thought. Maybe fatigue had a little bit to do with it, but I think it was confidence more than anything."
St. John's coach Aaron Elwer was downcast after seeing his team drop its second straight nailbiter.
"It's disappointing," said Elwer. "That's now two games in a row that we gave leads up instead of finding ways to win. Marion turned up the heat on us and our execution had to get better at that point but we had a few possessions where we made poor shot selections and we've got to be better than that."
Niekamp and Mescher led the Flyers with 13 and 12 points, respectively, while Recker and Geise also finished with 13 and 12.
Marion returns to action tonight with a road game at Arcanum.
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