Behind 21 points from Tyler Mescher and a strong defensive effort, Marion Local atones for an embarrassing loss just 24 hours previous with a Saturday night win over state-ranked Jackson Center.
Maria Stein – I cautiously congratulated Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert prior to Saturday night’s non-conference matchup with Marion Local – on his recent ranking of #6 in the state AP polls, Division IV…and for the fact that since I had last seen the Tigers against Anna (their only loss of the season) they had run off five consecutive wins, and impressive wins, at that.
“You know, you’re only as good as your last win,” he deadpanned, meaning every word of what he’d said. And two hours later, Elchert probably meant it in spades.
The Marion Local Flyers, coming off what their own coach termed a kick-in-the-mouth loss the night before to league rival St. Henry, beat Elchert’s Tigers at their own game Saturday, an impressive 55-46 win to improve Marion’s record to 7-5, while handing Jackson just its second loss of the season (12-2).
But it was the manner in Kurt Goettemoeller’s team did it that had to have galled his coaching colleague Elchert. You see, Jackson Center prides itself on playing great, tough, interior defense. And that’s where Marion beat them Saturday…in the paint.
In particular, sophomore Tyler Mescher lived down there, around the rim, collecting 21 points to lead all scorers while helping with some frustrating defense of his own on Jackson’s junior postman, Brady Wildermuth. Wildermuth did get 16 points, but there wasn’t a gimme in the bunch.
And outside help from teammate Drew Sosby, who had a team-high 19 points, there was simply no offensive complement to their respective efforts. Jackson’s other three starters, Gavin Booser, Ethan Zorn, and Bryce Sosby combined for just 11 points and the Tigers got a collective goose egg off their bench.
For that matter, Marion’s bench failed to score, as well. But three of the Flyers’ other starters, Derek Albers (11), Nathan Bruns (11), and Cole Griesdorn (12) combined for 36 points, and a lot of them came from – yep, you guessed it…around the rim or from the foul line.
“We really don’t have the size we’ve had in the past, but what we do have is strength in the interior,” said Goettemoeller afterwards, delighted by his team’s bounceback after Friday night’s massacre.
“Tyler Mescher looks like a bowling ball in there. He’s only 6’1″, and we all lament that he’s not 6’5″ because he plays so hard. And he plays a lot of basketball in the summer so he has a lot of basketball saavy, too. He doesn’t get in foul trouble, and he knows how to play around the rim, offensively and defensively. That’s what you saw tonight, and it was a big key for us.”
It didn’t start out that way. Jackson came out strong, took an 18-8 first half advantage, and put Marion on its heels. Fight, or flight, the psychologists call it, and Goettemoeller’s team found itself in a situation of sink, or swim. Play with some pride or go home with your tail tucked.
“We simply got our teeth kicked in last night,” Goettemoeller said. “And this wasn’t an easy game to bounce back from that. Scott’s teams are so disciplined and tough with their interior defense and we were a little shellshocked coming out here tonight. I didn’t know how we’d respond, but I challenged them to show what they’re made of. Then we get down like that early, we can’t make a shot, and nothing was going our way.
“We had to get stops and that’s what happened. We got some stops on the other end. We got untracked a little bit on offense, and they had some foul trouble that helped us. We got up at halftime and then it was just a fight in the second half.”
Indeed, the Flyers did come back from the 18-8 deficit to take a 21-20 lead at the break.
But more impressively, they went on a couple of runs in the third quarter that saw them at one point lead by as much as 11 points, 37-26.
“We tried to get the ball inside,” said the smiling sophomore, Mescher. “That’s one of the things our guards do, is look down low and post the ball, and then re-post if we have to. Last night our offense was there, but our defense wasn’t and tonight we really stepped up the effort, especially in the second half. We knew we had to come back and get a win tonight because it was a big game.
“We talked about it in the shoot-around this morning. We knew their offense was good, and we had to play better defense than we did last night if we were going to have a chance.”
Ironically, Elchert and crew probably had that very discussion on the bus home, back to Jackson Center, and it didn’t take them long to clear out after the final buzzer.
Marion improved to a respectable 7-5 with Saturday’s win, and a quality effort is just what they needed now with a string of tough MAC games coming up over the next two weeks.
“It’s just so hard to play from behind against a team like Jackson because of their discipline,” echoed Goettemoeller. “And to come back the way we did was a big accomplishment for us after last night.
“Now we have a tough schedule coming up with Versailles, Coldwater and St. John’s, and a couple of tough non-league games thrown in. Realistically, we’re still an inexperienced team because we’ve only had one full week of practice. Even last week we missed a couple of days because of snow. We still have a chance to improve a lot when we get more time to practice, and play.”
You are as good, after all, as the last game you play. Or so they say. And trust Tyler Mescher and Kurt Goettemoeller, a win over Jackson Saturday was a sure cure for what ails ya’.
A sure cure for a sore mouth!