By Gary R. Rasberry
OXFORD — Coming into the media interview room, Marion Local coach Keith Westrick was carrying a videotape.
If it was the tape of his team’s game with Yellow Springs, he may not want to watch the entire game.
The Flyers nearly blew a 17-point lead, yet, the lead was still in their hands as the final horn sounded as Marion Local advanced to the Division IV regional final with a 60-53 win at Millett Hall on the campus of Miami University.
Marion Local (16-9) will play Dayton Jefferson (19-6) on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. for a chance for a second straight trip to the Schottenstein Center and the state basketball semifinals. The Broncos advanced with a 64-63 win over Fairlawn in the nightcap, coming back from 15 points down to get the win.
Marion Local started off with a strong shooting game while playing a physical style against Yellow Springs. Then in the second half things seemed to be breaking down for the Flyers. After committing nine turnovers in the first half, the Flyers committed 18 in the second, most coming in the third quarter when the Bulldogs outscored the Flyers 15-9.
“We averaged probably 11 turnovers a ballgame (during the regular season). We take care of the ball well,” said Westrick. “I told the guys ïIf you handle the pressure, you’ll win the game.’ Their defense is pretty much a physical defense. They get right up on you. They got into their heads and allowed us to make poor decisions. That’s what I just said to the players. They forced us to take power shots, drive in and not know where to pass the ball. They made us run our offense so quickly we could not be efficient.”
The second half nearly wiped out what was a strong first half, where an 18-0 run by Marion had the score at 28-10 at one time. The Flyers shot 50 percent from the field (14-of-28) and was 7-of-11 from the three-point line during the first 16 minutes. A 6-for-18 rate in the second half — and just two treys in six tries —æwas the other part of the Flyers’ woes.
“We were basically in our comfort zone in the first half,” said Westrick. “They didn’t extend their zone as much as they did in the second half. They painted themselves into a corner.”
After getting back up to a 38-21 lead at the start of the third quarter, thanks to Cory Luebke’s fourth three-pointer of the game, the Bulldogs got back into the game slowly.
By the midway point of the quarter, Marion was up 42-30 and by the end of the quarter, it was 44-36 Flyers after Yellow Springs picked up the offense. Jordan Skinner scored six points in the quarter to pace the Bulldogs.
“We felt like we practiced well to get out on their shooters, obviously with those two guys (Cory Luebke and Russell Moeller) the main ones to key on,” said Bulldogs coach Brad Newsome. “They got some great looks. I felt like our defensive intensity picked up in the second half. We found them better and we got out of our halfcourt 3-2 matchup and got after them man-to-man. I felt like our pressure played a part in the second half.”
Marion was up 11 points at 52-41 with 3:11 left in the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs got a hot streak. Brandon Frye hit a three-pointer with 2:38 left to make it 52-44 and Skinner followed up a minute later with a stickback to make it a six-point game before Brad Benning-Clark hit a three-pointer with 57 seconds left to cut the score to 52-49, the closest the game had been since the first quarter.
The Bulldogs, out of timeouts, had to foul, and Luebke made sure he got the ball with 53 seconds left. Luebke made both shots to push the lead back to 54-49. Yellow Springs tried another shot but missed, with Adam Kremer getting the rebound and getting fouled.
Kremer, who missed an earlier free throw, made both his to push the lead to seven. Benning-Clark was fouled trying to move up court, making both free throws with 38 seconds left to get the game back to two possessions at 56-51. Luebke got the ball again on the inbounds and was fouled before making both to put the Flyers up 58-51. After another possession by Yellow Springs went fruitless, Ryan Winner wrapped up the scoring with two free throws with 15 seconds left on the clock.
“(Packing in the game) probably our best move of the entire game,” said Westrick. “We’ve been playing some teams that had phenomenal three-point shooters. We had to take our 2-3 and stretch to the maximum the last couple of games. Tonight we were asking them not to get out there. It wasn’t until the late third quarter where the guards started helping in the high post. Our center started picking up Skinner on the penetration and our forwards started coming off the blocks. I really think that was the key to survival.”
“I think I’ll steal a statement that my assistant coach stole from Vince Lombardi,” said Newsome. “We didn’t lose the game, we ran out of time. I felt like if I had five more minutes, maybe the outcome would have been different. I’m just extremely proud of the players and their effort. All year we talked about leaving it all out on the floor and that’s what we did.”
Westrick was quick to praise Yellow Springs.
“There’s no quit in those kids,” said Westrick. “They came out and played every ounce of heart that they had to get back into that thing.”
Luebke finished with a strong performance, getting the double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
“He had 10 rebounds, too?” said Newsome as he looked at the scoresheet. “He killed us.”
Moeller finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Skinner paced Yellow Springs with 20 points while Dustin Rudegeair added 14 points.
Marion ticket information: Tickets for Friday’s Division IV regional final game against Jefferson at Millett Hall will be on sale tonight from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the high school office.
On Thursday, tickets will be on sale from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the middle school and from 1 to 3 p.m. in the high school athletic office.
On Friday, tickets will be sold from noon to 2 p.m. in the high school office.
Tickets are $6 for adults and $5 for students.