By Gary R. Rasberry
COLUMBUS — There had to be some concerns from the Marion Local faithful as the Flyers got ready to play in the Division IV state semifinals on Friday at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
The previous three trips for the Flyers to the final four has alternated state titles with semifinal losses.
The Flyers won it all in 1975, lost in the semis in 1984 and won last season.
Some had to wonder if the cycle would continue as Sebring McKinley faced the Flyers.
The fears, it turned out, were unfounded, but it took awhile to unravel those concerns.
The Flyers outscored the Trojans 19-7 in the final quarter to pick up the 52-45 win. Marion (18-9) advances to the state championship game at 5 p.m. today against Holgate. The Tigers (20-6) defeated South Webster 31-28 in Friday’s second semifinal.
“Sebring is a very fine team,” said Marion Local coach Keith Westrick. “We prepared for them and watched them on tape and I think they were even stronger than we anticipated. Their perimeter shooting was very good and their inside people work very hard down in the paint. Give them a lot of credit. It was a hard-fought ballgame.”
Marion Local overcame a sluggish middle portion of the game where the Trojans (24-2) came back and got up as much as six points in the third quarter before taking a 38-35 lead into the final quarter.
Whatever words of wisdom Westrick said in the huddle in the minute break between quarters had an immediate impact as Marion went on a 7-0 run to get the 40-38 lead with 67 seconds elapsed in the period. A post-timeout layup by Matt Ferguson tied the game but the Flyers immediately got the lead back with a 8-0 run over the next five minutes to go up 48-40.
Adam Kremer got the streak going at the 4:13 mark with a (Continued from page 6)three-pointer from the corner of the court. After a defensive stop, the Flyers slowed things down with a a patient passing game. Curtis Moeller then found an open look and hit the jumper to make it 45-40.
McKinley, who had been shooting hot over the first three quarters, went cold in the period as Marion began to slow things down and force the Trojans into fouling to stop the clock.
The Trojans had to foul four times in a row to finally get the bonus triggered. Russell Moeller went to the line four straight times, making three to raise the scored to 48-40. McKinley then tried to get back into the game with the help of All-Ohio guard David Scarpitti.
The 6-1 senior was fouled going for the three-pointer and made two of three, missing the last intentionally to try and get the rebound. The Flyers Cory Luebke got the rebound instead and was fouled. Luebke made both throws to make it 50-42. Scarpitti swished a three-pointer with six seconds left to cut the lead to five. Luebke got the ball on the inbounds and was fouled again, making both to ice the game as the Flyers became the first team this season to score 50 points against McKinley.
“First thing I have to do is congratulate Marion Local. They come from a quality conference,” said McKinley coach Brian Clark. “Give coach Westrick and his players a lot of credit, they’ve been in these type of games before in multiple sports. ... Our kids are hurting right now because we came down here to win this thing. We prepared an agenda and itinerary to get them the opportunity.”
While David Scarpitti scored 12 points, just under his season average, younger brother Dan hurt the Flyers early by hitting three treys in the first half in an attempt to top Luebke for the Flyers.
Luebke had the hot hand early, hitting his first five shots of the game, three of them from behind the arc for 13 first-half points. David Scarpitti tightened the noose on Luebke through the middle quarters, causing him to miss five straight shots. Luebke recovered to score a game-high 23 points.
“I thought they out-executed us badly in the first half, especially in the second quarter,” said Westrick, whose Flyers were outscored 11-4 in the second quarter to give the Trojans the 26-24 lead. “My mindset at halftime was telling them they (McKinley) outworked us and doing things better than us offensively and defensively. We had to get back to the fundamentals. Fortunately, in the fourth quarter, we were able to execute better.”
Russell Moeller, struggling through a 3-of-11 shooting game, finished with 10 points, five coming in the all-important fourth quarter.
Dan Scarpitti led the Trojans with 17 points as the five McKinley starters played all but the final two seconds of the game when Clark brought them out.
“We really didn’t make any adjustments at halftime, we just had to be a little more knowledgeable where their shooters were,” said Westrick. “Dan Scarpitti knocked down everything. We just had to be more aware. In the fourth quarter we changed our defense (from the matchup to a 3-2 look) to put pressure on the perimeter, although it put more pressure on the post players. I think they handled it well.”
“I think the kids did a good job of attacking the matchup, especially the middle two quarters,” said Clark. “In the fourth quarter we just went cold. Marion did not change the looks too much. We were 2-of-9. Marion did not allow us any second chances.”
Westrick said in the postgame that he stuck with his starters a little more than he usually did. Wes Everman played 14 minutes, scoring on a pair of free throws but Kyle Moeder and Ryan Stucke played just three and two minutes respectively.
“I like to usually go eight deep and the three guys are very capable subs,” said Westrick, “But being such a tight ballgame and being the state semifinals, I tried to keep my best players on the floor.”
Clark refused to use fatigue as an excuse.
“These kids play eight hours a day all year round. You’re not going to tire them out,” said Clark. “For appearances sake on this stage, that’s going to be story everyone wants to write, but there’s no story there.”