By Randy Bruns
MARIA STEIN -- In tight ballgames, the team that plays the best down the stretch is the one that takes home the victory.
Tuesday at the Hangar, the Marion Local Flyers left no doubt as to which team had more gas left in the tank at the end, as they scored the game's last 10 points to defeat the Celina Bulldogs by a score of 42-33.
The win improves Marion to 8-3 on the year while Celina falls to 6-6.
The Flyers jumped out to a seven-point lead midway through the first quarter, but the Bulldogs rallied and took their first lead early in the second when Meg Smalley tossed in a three-pointer. Thus started a back-and-forth battle where each point was fought for tooth and nail. The lead changed seven more times, and neither team led by more than three until the Flyers made their late-game push.
The turning point came while Laura Link was hitting a pair of free throws to put the Bulldogs up 31-30 early in the fourth quarter. Marion coach Treva Fortkamp directed her team to switch from its normal man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone that the Marion boys have employed for years. Jenna Barhorst quickly put the Flyers back on top with a jumper, and though Link countered with a bucket from the baseline, it would prove to be the last points of the night for the Bulldogs.
Maria Moeller hit from the wing to give the lead back to Marion, and the senior guard then hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to three at 36-33. Holly Fortkamp then followed with a jumper off the dribble to put Marion up by five and force a Celina timeout. Despite the instructions given by Celina coach Brian Stetler, the Bulldogs couldn't get any shots off against the Flyers' zone, and the hosts put the game away on four more foul shots by Moeller.
"We just didn't execute against their zone at the end, and we've seen the zone in our last two games," said Stetler. "I can't explain what happened there. We were up 33-32 and then didn't score another point the rest of the game. That was the difference in the game."
After the game, Treva Fortkamp couldn't remember which of her coaches made the suggestion to go to zone, but she agreed that it turned the tide in the Flyers' favor.
"I'm not sure who it was, but one of us made the right decision," said Fortkamp with a laugh. "(Celina's) inside game is their bread and butter, and they worked over our low post players all game long. That's where they like to go, and we got burned a few times on the pick and roll so the change made sense."
Holly Fortkamp led all scorers with 17 points on a hot six-of-nine shooting performance, while Moeller chipped in with 12 for the Flyers. Link led the Bulldogs with 13 markers.
"Holly just had a fantastic all-around game," said coach Fortkamp. "She's got a beautiful shot and she does a lot of things well. She's come a long way with her confidence, and when someone else isn't having their best game she steps up."
Both teams return to their respective conferences Thursday, as Celina will host Elida and Marion will entertain Parkway.