By Randy Bruns
SPENCERVILLE -- For 27 minutes on Saturday night, the Marion Local Flyers did everything they could do to stop their early-season losing streak.
They were going toe to toe with a good Spencerville Bearcat squad and forced a timeout with five minutes left by taking the lead for the first time since early in the game.
After the break, though, things went south in a hurry.
The Bearcats responded with a fury and went on an 11-1 run, as junior Logan Nourse scored 10 points in two and a half minutes. The Flyers could never recover and went down to a 55-40 defeat.
Marion remains winless on the year at 0-6 while Spencerville moves to 7-2. The Flyers kept within double digits throughout the first half, thanks mostly to their sticky matchup zone that slowed down the Bearcats' high-flying offense. The hosts pulled out to a six-point lead with two minutes left in the first half, but Damon Bertke hit a pair of turnaround jumpers to help pull the Flyers to within one at the intermission.
Spencerville threatened to pull away midway through the third when it took a 29-22 lead after T.C. Horner's jumper, but Marion quickly rallied. Dan Moeller hit a three-ball and Sam Schwieterman converted an old style three-point play, and the Flyers were back within one at the end of the third quarter.
Marion then took a 34-33 lead on two Bertke free throws, but the Logan Nourse show was just beginning. Nourse hit a jumper in the lane, converted a steal for a layup, and dropped a pair of long threes to single-handedly put the Flyers away.
"After we had the lead, we mentioned in the timeout that Nourse is the kind of kid that will pull up and try to be the hero," said Marion coach Keith Westrick. "Both of those shots were from way out there, and they could have backfired on them but he stuck them in."
The late-game breakdown overshadowed another solid performance by the Flyers, who have looked much better since dropping their first three games by double-digit margins. The defense in particular was stout, as the Bearcats looked out of sync until their late charge.
"Marion's 2-3 zone is so difficult to prepare for because we don't see that type of defense much," said Spencerville coach Kevin Sensabaugh. "We were on a little bit of a downer (from a midweek loss to Ottoville) but Marion played very well. They were very physical and really got after us, and we really struggled until late in the game when we were able to spread things out and get some points in transition."
Regardless of Marion's early struggles, with six straight two-game weekends looming, Westrick will try to keep his team focused on the future instead of the past.
"Nobody wanted to have this kind of start, but right now it's water under the bridge," said Westrick. "When you play teams like Versailles, Elida, Covington, and Spencerville you're playing some of the best teams in the north and the south, and we'll have more opportunities down the road to face those same kinds of teams. We're obviously improving, and Marion players aren't the kind to get their heads down and keep them down. If somebody knocks us down we'll get right back into the ring and try again. If we're going to have any kind of success, there's no other mentality to have."
Bertke was the lone player in double figures for Marion Local with 12 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
Marion will try to rack up its first win Friday when a hot New Bremen squad visits the Hangar.