By Gary R. Rasberry
VANDALIA -- The much-anticipated Marion Local-Xenia Christian matchup in the Division IV regional final lived up to the hype.
Early on, the Flyers' Maria Moeller shined in getting her team out to an early lead, but in the end, the power of three sisters came through for the Ambassadors.
Marion fell behind by as many as 12 and came back to cut it to one with 21/2 minutes left, but the heraled Frazee triplets were able to keep the lead and deny the Flyers a second trip to state in three years -- and end the three-year run of Midwest Athletic Conference teams at state -- with a 53-48 Ambassadors win at a jam-packed Student Activity Center at Vandalia-Butler High School.
The win puts XC (24-1) in the state semifinals Thursday night at St. John Arena against the Big Green of Ottoville (22-3), who won the Elida regional, 48-29, over Hopewell-Loudon. Marion ends its season at 24-1.
The game was played out in several acts, with each team taking turns in the game. Marion jumped out to a 12-6 lead, with Maria Moeller scoring the first 11 points for her team. The Flyer game plan to try and contain all three 6-2 Frazees -- Megan, Molly and Moriah -- seemed to work as the trio combined for just three points in the opening quarter.
"I think we stressed that," said Marion coach Treva Fortkamp. "They (XC) usually dominate the first quarter. I felt pretty good after that (opening)."
"That was new territory for us," said XC coach Bill Martin. "We tell the girls the score is always 0-0 (and) don't be looking at the scoreboard to see what the score is. We'll take care of that at the end of the game."
Xenia Christian found a way to shut down Moeller, the Northwest District co-player of the year, giving up just one foul shot in the second quarter. With the other Flyers having trouble getting good looks at the basket, the Ambassadors took over.
Megan Frazee. the Southwest District player of the year, scored seven points after missing her first four shots of the game in the second quarter as Marion was held to just two points -- the other point coming on a Jenna Barhorst free throw -- to take a 23-14 lead at the half.
"We switched up and went to a man (man-to-man)," said Martin about the changes to curtail Moeller. "We started out in zone because we wanted to save legs (XC used just six players in the game) and conserve fouls. The kids really contained Maria. She had to just force some things up."
"Two points," said Flyer coach Treva Fortkamp. "It hurt. We didn't execute and we didn't finish. We had a lot of easy shots we didn't make."
Xenia Christian had the lead up to 29-17 with 4:26 left in the third quarter when the Flyers finally regained their spark. Moeller hit back-to-back threes, snapping an 0-for-5 shooting streak that saw her not score a point for a span of 11 minutes and 16 seconds, to cut it to 29-23. Moeller added a two-pointer on the drive with 48.6 seconds left in the third quarter to make it 29-26.
Holly Fortkamp kept the hot streak going by hitting the old-school three-point play with 30 seconds left in the quarter to get to within one going into the final eight minutes.
But as the fourth quarter started, Megan Frazee came to power. The senior had seven of the first nine points for the Ambassadors in the first 90 seconds of the quarter.
Xenia was able to put the clamps on Moeller once again, but this time, the Flyers found a new outlet for points with Barhorst, who had been held to just three points in the the first three quarters. The 6-2 junior finally was able to get free of the Frazees down low, scoring 11 points in the final quarter.
But in the end, it was too much Megan Frazee. The Liberty-bound player -- along with her two sisters -- scored 15 of her game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter. Megan Frazee also pulled down 18 rebounds.
"We didn't have an answer for Megan in the second half," said Fortkamp. "You put one person on her, she goes around them. She's a great player.
"They got the job done," said Martin. "I can't praise them enough and praise God for the opportunity."
Megan Frazee was very complimentary of the Flyers' defense.
"Yeah, it definitely was," said Megan when asked about if Marion provided the toughest defense she had seen this season. "Fort Loramie kind of prepared us for (Marion) because they play pretty good defense too. (Coach Martin) told us basically not to give up)."
"I think we did a good job on her in the first half. She just took over late in the game and she has the ability to do that. I've seen a lot of basketball in my day. Not too many 6-2 girls have that speed and that ability to go off the dribble and go to the hole. What are you going to do? You have two other 6-2 girls out there out there to guard. ... Give them credit. I thought we played them as hard as we could," said Fortkamp.
The Flyers were plagued again by poor foul shooting. Marion made just 9-of-22 attempts, including just 6-of-14 in the second half.
"I know you're going to ask the question about free throws," Fortkamp prefaced. "I know that's a problem, but it wasn't our day."
Moriah Frazee was 3-of-6 from beyond the three-point line to finish with 11 points and nine rebounds before fouling out late in the game. Molly Frazee added seven points and six rebounds.
Moeller wrapped up her junior season with 25 points -- on 10-of-26 shooting from the field but just 2-of-9 from the foul line -- and 10 rebounds. Jenna Barhorst finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
"Our kids played hard. We had a great year," said Fortkamp. "We got beat by a damn good team.
"I told them the sun will come out tomorrow, don't look back. Maybe it will make them hungry."