By Robb Hemmelgarn
MARIA STEIN -- The scene in the Marion Local Flyers locker room last night was rather drab.
The girls sulked while coach Treva Fortkamp scripted "UGLY" in oversized letters in front of them.
You wouldn't have known it by their demeanor, but the Flyers in fact won, however, it was in a fashion they would like to soon forget.
Fortkamp's crew fought off a valiant offensive surge in the fourth quarter by the St. Marys Roughriders to preserve a 42-37 victory, their 19th of the season.
"There aren't too many ways to describe the game tonight," explained Fortkamp following the win. "It was just downright ugly at times. We didn't shoot well, and we let their strong defensive pressure get to us. I'm not really sure why it happened -- who knows? Maybe it was partially a letdown from the Minster game last week, but whatever it was I hope it's out of our system." The Flyers struggled from the start, turning the ball over on their first three possessions of the game while the Roughriders converted the trio of turnovers into seven straight points for a 7-0 advantage. The Flyers, playing their final game of the season at the Hangar, were quick to respond with a 9-1 run, which later evolved into a 14-11 lead at the end of the first period.
The home team strengthened their advantage to as many as 10 points at 21-11, but St. Marys strung together eight consecutive points, led by four points from junior center Kerri Imwalle. A jumper from senior Kelli Stucke gave Marion Local a 23-19 lead, but a long ball from St. Marys' Kimber Brown, who finished the contest with a game-high 14 points, cut her team's deficit to 23-22 at the end of the first half.
The Flyers started the third quarter in the same manner as the second quarter, scoring six straight points and forcing the visitors into seven turnovers during the first four minutes of action. The quarter was a complete disaster for Roughrider coach Bruce Brown's club as they committed 10 turnovers while picking up just two points in the eight-minute stanza.
"I told the girls in the locker room that we still had a lot to take care of and that Marion would come out very aggressive in the second half," said Brown. "They are a very, very good team and they came at us hard in the third quarter and built another big lead."
Marion Local led by 11 points (35-24) at the end of the third period, and it looked as if it were prepared to put the Roughriders away for good.
The Flyer faithful would soon find out that looks can be deceiving. The two teams traded points in the opening minutes of the final period, but nine straight points from Kimber Brown brought the visitors right back into the thick of things at 37-35. At one point, the Flyers missed 14 consecutive shots.
"We had the opportunity to put them away on a couple of different occasions in the first three quarters and we didn't," commented Fortkamp. "I give them a lot of credit, they didn't give up and gave us a good fight."
A three-point bomb from Maria Moeller, who led the Flyers with 12 points, pushed her team's lead to five points, the margin they would go on to win by at 42-37.
Not many fans gave St. Marys much of a chance on the road against the undefeated Flyers, but no matter how close, a loss is still a loss in Brown's eyes.
"At this level we play to win games, and we didn't do that tonight -- it's as simple as that," he remarked. "On the same token, we did have some individuals step up and play well tonight and that's what we need to happen in tournament. Toya Anderson handled the pressure as well tonight as she ever has. Maria Moeller is one of the best in the state offensively and defensively, and I felt Toya did an outstanding job."
"Kimber (Brown) hit some nice shots for us as well, and in order to compete we need to continue having everyone step up with big games," added the St. Marys mentor.
The Flyers honored their four seniors prior to the start of the game and now they will have the opportunity to go 20-0, becoming the first Flyer squad to do so in over 20 years.
"Our seniors have worked very hard this season and led everyone to this point. We told them that on Thursday, they can accomplish two of their season's goals -- running the table in the conference as well as for the regular season. To do so in the MAC is extremely difficult and something they have to be proud of."
Both squads will be back in action Thursday as the Flyers travel to New Knoxville to face the Rangers and St. Marys (8-11) plays host to the Lima Central Catholic Thunderbirds.