By Randy Bruns
MARIA STEIN -- For three quarters, the Marion Local Flyers controlled Friday night's battle with the Coldwater Cavaliers, but the visitors stormed back and dominated the fourth quarter.
Well, most of the fourth quarter.
After blowing an 11-point lead in the final period and allowing the Cavaliers to take the lead, the Flyers got a three-point play from Ryan Winner with three seconds remaining and came away with a 39-38 Midwest Athletic Conference victory.
Marion improves to 6-6 on the year and 2-2 in the MAC, while Coldwater falls to 4-9 overall and 0-6 in conference play.
The Flyers looked to have a handle on this one as the fourth quarter began, but the Cavaliers picked up the intensity and harassed the hosts into committing eight turnovers in the frame. The result was a flurry of unanswered points, and Craig Wellman's jumper tied the game at 36-all with just over a minute to go. The Flyers then committed another miscue and Chad Geier broke loose on a fast break and went in for a layup to give the Cavaliers their first lead of the game. After a missed three-pointer by the Flyers, the visitors had a chance to ice the game but missed the first of a one-and-bonus opportunity with 23 seconds remaining.
The Flyers worked for a tying shot but nothing was open, so Curtis Moeller attempted a three-ball from the wing. The shot drew iron, but Winner rebounded it and put it back in while getting fouled. The senior then calmly drilled the free throw, and after a timeout the Flyers stole the inbound pass to end the game.
After the game, Marion coach Keith Westrick talked about the last possession.
"We had a set play where Kyle Moeder caught it and we had two options off of it," said Westrick. "Neither one was there, and Curtis grabbed the ball and made something happen. We told them in the huddle that if we miss the shot we've got to get the rebound. Ryan is a very good rebounder for his size and he just flew in there and made it happen."
Coldwater coach Don Vogt could only shake his head after another disappointing loss.
"It was great heart by the kids, they played their butts off," said Vogt. "Marion plays a zone and controls the tempo and it's hard to come back on a team like that. We changed up (our defense) and got some momentum and almost had it. It's just very hard to get over a mental hump, and that's right where we're at."
Despite the win, Westrick couldn't mask his disappointment with his team's fourth-quarter meltdown.
"Coldwater has been battling everybody tough, so I'm definitely not going to minimize our victory," said Westrick. "It's just disappointing that we seemed to have control of the ballgame and then let it go. We just didn't run our press offense effectively at all, and it hadn't been a trouble spot for us all year. We had a stretch where we lost our composure and threw some weak passes and didn't stay focused."
Winner's late-game heroics certainly weren't his only highlight, as the senior led all scorers with 19 points, including all 11 of the Flyer tallies in the third quarter.
Chad Miller paced the Cavaliers with 16 points and Wellman contributed 11.
Coldwater will host St. Marys tonight in a nonconference game before taking on league-leading St. John's at home on Friday. Marion will entertain Fort Loramie tonight and travel to Minster on Friday.