It wasn’t pretty, but it was entertaining. And when the crowd left the packed gym for home it’s a sure thing that some were confused over whether they’d seen basketball or WWE. Just your typical Marion Local-St. Henry basketball game.
Maria Stein – When St. Henry beat Marion Local 52-47 last weekend in the Coldwater holiday tournament…there’s no question that someone must have shrugged afterwards and said, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. They play again next week and it’s a league game.”
They don’t score many points when Marion meets St. Hank. Never have in the recent history of the series. Part of that’s due to the fact that the two teams, and the two coaches (Kurt Goettemoeller and Eric Rosenbeck), know each other so well.
The other part is that it’s usually pretty physical – hard-nosed, and tough. Friday night the officials worked as the game as if to say, “Trump does worse things than that everyday,” and chose not to ‘tweet’. That’s how it was as Marion evened the season ‘series’ (thus far) with a 48-43 win that WWE wrestling promoter Vince McMahon would have loved. All that was missing were the ropes, the turnbuckles…and I didn’t personally see anyone hit with a plastic chair.
How hard was it to score?
Marion Local (4-2, 2-0) led at halftime, 19-17. That’s it – 36 points, total.
And how hard did points come? Well, for the game Marion Local shot 39% from the floor and St. Henry shot 31%. St. Henry shot 23% from behind the arc and Marion Local, well…didn’t.
Even the foul line appeared tainted, because in winning Marion hit just 19 of 35 attempts for the game – 54%.
St. Henry (6-2, 1-1) had one lead in the game…2-0. Then Marion would come back to tie at the end of the first quarter, 9-9. They led at the half 19-17. Things busted wide open in the third when the Flyers climbed out to a 31-28 lead. And with four minutes left in the game Marion actually appeared to have put it away, edging out to a 40-30 lead. But a minute and a half later St. Hank had cut it to 41-39, and it was game on.
While St. Henry struggled to shoot from the field, the Redskins were exemplary from the line, hitting 20 of 26 free throws, and in large part that’s how they erased the last 10-point deficit to give themselves a chance – while Marion was throwing up ‘bricks’ from the line at the other end.
But in the nick of time Marion found a way to hit some of those ‘freebies’ – Sam Huelsman, Max Albers, and Nate Bruns rolled in five between them in the final 90 seconds to indeed secure the margin of victory, 48-43.
Not that there wasn’t a single offensive highlight, because there was. Marion senior Nate Bruns scored a game-high 26 points, including his 1,000th career point in the third quarter on a short jumper just outside the lane. He joined Minster’s Courtney Prenger in scoring a thousand points on successive nights, as Prenger hit her milestone Thursday in a win over Fort Recovery.
“I knew I needed 16 points before the game,” said Bruns afterwards. “I had been keeping track.”
He was still clutching to the game ball when reporters talked to him outside the locker room after the game. Would he sleep with it that night?
“Probably not,” he said with a sheepish smile. “But it’ll stay in my room, though. It was a really cool moment in my life. It’s something that you’re never gonna’ forget. When you’re a child it’s something you want to grow up and accomplish, and for me to do it now is awesome.”
He should have gotten extra points for degree of difficulty. It’s rare that someone gets their thousandth point on a night when neither team seemed able to score – when records were the farthest thing from your mind.
“They were really physical with us,” said Bruns of St. Henry’s defense. “We just had to get through, I was able to get inside some, and I think that’s what worked for us tonight.”
Actually, his 26 points came on a trio of three-pointers, a quartet of two pointers and 8 points from close range, and the remaining 9 of his points came from the foul line, where he finished 9 of 14. Teammate Sam Huelsman joined Bruns in double figures with 13 points, while Matt Rethman finished with 5.
Ethan Thieman led St. Henry with 17 points, Jay Knapke had 8, Zach Niekamp had 5, and Ben Evers had 6.
But Marion coach Kurt Goettemoeller was preaching a different message while acknowledging that the game was as rough and tough as it looked. In his words, it was all about defense.
“That was an absolute slugfest, man,” sighed Goettemoeller. “I mean, we’re thrilled to win over a great basketball program like that because they know us, they’re so well prepared, and it’s hard to score on them. But the difference in this game and last week’s game was we got to a whole ‘nuther level defensively. We challenged the kids this week that we can’t let them run their stuff so easily – that we had to challenge passing lanes and get out and be physical on their shooters. Sam Huelsman did a whale of a job on Caden Niekamp inside, and our perimeter defense helped him, because he had 16 points on us Saturday and tonight we held him to 4. That was a big key to the game.
“I still don’t think our offense is anywhere near to what I think we can be, so overall, our defense is what won the game for us tonight. We’ll keep working on it, though, because I tell the kids…we’re capable of growing by leaps and bounds.”
Down the hallway St. Henry coach Eric Rosenbeck shook his head as he looked at the game stats.
“The first thing I said to our guys when we got in the locker room was I loved them,” said Rosenbeck. “I loved how we competed. They fight, they scrap, and they claw. Obviously we’ve got to clean some things up on offense – we had some shots that would have been big momentum swings that didn’t go for us – but the kids are going to fight for us and I’ll go to war with them every night.
“Tonight was the most baseline out-of-bounds points we’ve give up in five or six years,” he added. “And that’s on me. We have to do a better job on the details – not let Bruns get a pair of corner threes, and some things that I thought we were prepared for, we weren’t. It was pretty close, but we just couldn’t make the big shot.”
So yes, the series as it stands is tied at a game apiece, and more than one acknowledged afterwards that it’s likely they’ll meet again come tournament time. And if you thought it was rough, tough, and physical – and that it was about attention to details in a league game on a Friday in early January…come back in March.
You really ain’t seen nothin’ yet.