By Gary R. Rasberry
COLDWATER — The rematch between Marion Local and Minster was everything fans from both schools expected it would be: a battle to the wire.
For the Minster Wildcats, they made it to the end with the higher end of the scoreboard.
Minster advanced to its first regional semifinal since the state championship season of 1998 with a 50-44 win over the Flyers at the Division IV District Championship game at the Palace in Coldwater on Saturday night.
The win puts the Wildcats (21-2) in the first semifinal on Thursday at the Student Activity Center at Vandalia Butler against Jackson Center. The Tigers defeated Seven Hills 54-47 at Vandalia on Saturday to advance to the regional. Marion Local ends its season at 17-6.
The Wildcats took the lead for good late in the second quarter and tried to push the score up through the third and fourth quarter. A last-chance rally in the fourth got the Flyers to within a field goal but Minster scored four points in the final 26 seconds to put the game away.
“Never in doubt,” laughed Minster coach Nann Stechschulte after the awards presentation. “(Marion) started off hot and we started launching shots that weren’t real good shot selections. We worked our way back in the game.”
The Flyers were bogged down by a number of turnovers (16) and getting outrebounded by the Wildcats by a 36-27 margin and missing much needed free throws towards the end of the game. Had the Flyers made all of their fourth quarter free throws, the game would have been much closer.
“Absolutely killed us,” said Marion coach Treva Fortkamp of the woes, “But give credit to Minster, they’re a fine team. I told the girls we were in the position they are in last season. It’s tough but the sun will come up tomorrow and we’ll go and cheer them on. They’re part of our league and Nann has done a fine job with that team. I wish them the best of (Continued from page 1B)luck and so does the girls.”
Marion took the early 10-7 lead after the first quarter before Minster finally found its mark with the help of Karen Brackman. The junior eight of her game-high 16 points in the second quarter, including a layup with 24 seconds left in the quarter that gave the Wildcats a 21-19 lead that would never be lost. Free throws by Kirby Boeke with seven seconds left put the Wildcats up 23-19 at the half.
“Karen went kind of crazy in that quarter,” said Stechschulte. “She got really hot. The offense we was running enabled her to make basket cuts and we were getting her the ball and she finished them.”
It appeared that Minster would run away with the game in the second half after pushing the lead up to 10 points at 33-23 with 3:03 left to go. Things did not look much better for Marion when sophomore Maria Moeller picked up her fourth personal foul with 1:32 left in the period and was taken out shortly thereafter.
Minster went into the final quarter up 36-27 and Moeller, one foul away from being a spectator the rest of the game, came back in and immediately made an impact, driving the lane and hitting a layup while being fouled just 33 seconds into the quarter to get within seven. Minster lost the ball on its ensuing possession and Marion looked to get closer. Rachel Thobe, who missed Thursday’s game with a sprained ankle, hit a three-pointer to cut to 36-32. Another Minster turnover became two more Marion points as Jenna Barhorst put in a bunny to get the score to 36-34.
Stechschulte looked to senior center Robyn Hoying to help push the lead back up. Hoying, celebrating her 18th birthday, grabbed the rebound off a Minster miss and put it back in to put the lead back to four. After Moeller missed a one-and-bonus, Brackman drove the lane and scored again to make it 40-34. Sunni Olding followed up with a jumper to push it to 42-34 before the Flyers reeled themselves back in.
Barhorst made another jumper and Moeller hit two free throws on two trips to the line to get it to 42-38. the teams traded a free throw each before Amy Kremer got the pass from Brackman and scored to put the lead up to six at 45-39. Moeller, still playing with four fouls, drove the lane and was fouled by Hoying as the ball went through the net, making the score 45-42 after the free throw with 1:22 left.
“I sat her for two minutes and I thought to myself īTreva, you can’t replay this game and say I should have played her,’” said Fortkamp. “She’s smart enough to know when to pick up that foul. We just can’t apply that same pressure.”
The Wildcats, with Hoying now on the bench after fouling out, began to stall. Fortkamp called on the Flyers to foul to put the Wildcats on the line, but it before any Flyer could reach Bridget Slonkosky, she dashed up to midcourt and reset. A Flyer finally fouled her but not before the clock ticked down to 43.4 seconds. Slonkosky made one of two to push the lead back to four. Moeller got the rebound and pushed the ball up the court, finding Erin Brand for the shot with 26 seconds left. Fortkamp immediately called timeout to set up the defense.
It took a couple of seconds, but Slonkosky broke free and moved upcourt. The nearest Flyer to get the foul was Moeller, who got the foul before realizing that it was going to be her fifth. Moeller sat down and had to watch to see if her teammates could keep the season going. Slonkosky made one of two again and Thobe got the rebound but was stripped of the ball. Kremer made the layup to ice the game with five seconds left. Brackman was fouled on the inbounds and made one free throw with 2.3 seconds left to officially wrap things up.
“I thought Amy came in and did a nice job,” Stechschulte said of Kremer, who had five of her seven points in the fourth quarter. “We were in that delay game and she got the ball at the top of the key and took it to the rack. I thought that was a very big bucket.”
Moeller wrapped up a successful sophomore season with 14 points. Barhorst finished with nine.
“They didn’t quit,” said Fortkamp. “They were down nine, cut it to two. That’s just the way the ball bounces. I’m proud of my kids. I have a young group. At some points I had three sophomores out there with a senior and a junior. My seniors have been a great group and they have a lot to be proud of with a state championship ring. ... I’ll miss them. I told the younger kids this is something to remember and it makes you hungry for the next one.”
Hoying had a happy birthday with 15 points and 11 rebounds, six on the offensive boards.
“That’s what she wanted for her birthday,” said Stechschulte. “I can’t say enough about what she does. She scores, she rebounds and plays defense. Her defense is incredible. She helps and she recovers. It’s like having two people out there.”