By Gary R. Rasberry
Senior leadership was a concern for Marion Local entering this season as the trio of Flyers coming back from last year’s squad totaled just 24 combined minutes of action against Crestview in the Division IV state title game a year ago.
Cory Luebke played a pivotal role for the Flyers off the bench last season but only saw seven minutes in the state final due to foul trouble. Adam Kremer played 16 minutes in the state title contest, scoring five points in helping out in the backcourt when starting guards Chad Otte and Nick Prenger got into foul trouble.
The third senior, Russell Moeller, got a minute of playing time when coach Keith Westrick cleared the bench with the game clearly decided.
This year, all three are in the starting lineup for Friday’s semifinal against Sebring McKinley with the hope that all three will be announced as starters on Saturday, contingent with the win over McKinley on Friday.
After losing five starters and eight seniors from the 25-2 championship team from last season, the trio of seniors coming in this season knew they would be needed to keep a young team together.
“At the beginning of the season, we were kind of nervous,” said Kremer. “I didn’t know what was going on. Then Russell, Cory, Ryan Winner and Curtis Moeller started to step it up as the season went on. Things flowed together by the end of the season.”
“We had some some tough games where we couldn’t get it done,” said Moeller. “As the season ended, we started to come together and started doing things as a team.”
“We knew we had some athletes that could shoot the ball,” said Luebke. “It was just a matter of time for everybody to get into their rhythm and get their shots down. ... Everyone knew we had to be patient and keep our heads up.”
Kremer came in and took over the chores of not only the ball-handling but also the defensive lead in the matchup zone. Averaging 4.2 points per game, Kremer has soared in the other key stats, leading the team with 3.04 assists and 2.44 steals per game.
Moeller, the closest thing the Flyers have to a post player, has held his own against bigger and stockier opponents. The 6-5 Moeller is second on the team in scoring at 12.8 ppg. and second in rebounding at 5.6 rebounds per game. Moeller provides foes with matchup concerns with his ability to play on the perimeter, hitting 32 three-pointers on the season.
“Teams will put their big guy on me,” said Moeller. “A lot of times they’re slower and can’t get out to guard the three.”
Luebke made one of the biggest improvements this season as the Ohio State baseball signee now provides the Flyers with an all-around game. After being a three-point specialist last season, Luebke, at 6-3, worked on his skills in the post area. The move worked as Luebke, a first-team all-district and second-team All-Ohio selection, leads the team not only in scoring at 17.8 ppg. but also in rebounding at 6.6 rpg. The lefty also retained his sharp-shooting prowess, hitting 38 threes this season.
“It was something that I knew I had to do this season,” said Luebke. “Last year, I definitely had a different role with the big men we had last season (Kevin Garman, Mick Bollenbacher, Jay Schwieterman). This year, it was basically me and Russell. It was something I knew I had to do. We had to have a postgame and someone had to go in and rebound. I just got used to it.”
The tourney run, just like the playoff run to the state runner-up title in football during the fall, may have come as a surprise for many in the Marion community, but Luebke says that the team thought they had a good chance of going far down the tournament trail.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” said Luebke. “When the tournament run started, we looked and saw that there wasn’t a team in our division that we couldn’t compete with and stay with.”
Now the Flyers make their second straight trip to the Schottenstein Center. Kremer believes that the experience from last season will be a help this week.
“I’ll feel much more comfortable knowing I was down there last year,” said Kremer. I know what the atmosphere is like. It’s crazy when you go down there.”
Moeller, who didn’t see a lot of time last season, is ready to help get his team back to the finals.
“I did not play much last year,” said Moeller. “When we made the run in football (Moeller was a starting end), it was cool for me because it the first time being involved. It’s cool for basketball because you get to experience everything that happened last year this year.”