Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, sports, the outdoors, and music; and he has a degree from the school of music at Ohio State University.

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They overcame a second half deficit in one of the toughest venues of all high school basketball to play, but Anna somehow found a way to offset emotion, the environment, and Tyler Mescher’s 1,000th point to come back and beat Marion Local.

Maria Stein – You know that tired old saying, don’t you – about how when the going get’s tough, the tough get going?

And hey, if you’ve ever been to Marion Local High School you know how tough the basketball environment can be there, don’t you?  It’s small, it’s close, noisy, and kids running around at both ends and up and down the sidelines.  It’s darn near claustrophobic.  For visiting teams, road wins come tough at Marion, just the way they like it.

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Well somehow, with all that, the Anna Rockets (9-2) found a way to win there Saturday night, 53-49 – overcoming the environment, overcoming the noise, overcoming a 9-2 Marion run to begin the third quarter;  and even overcoming Flyer forward Tyler Mescher scoring his 1,000th career point to do it.  In a word, now…it was tough.  But the Rockets were tough enough to get it done.

It was close throughout, tied at 24-24 at halftime, a first half that saw Mescher, one of the area’s true nice guys, get his well-deserved 1,000th point as a Flyers.  And while we’re talking about tough, every one of those points came hard,  because Tyler Mescher does his work under the rim and usually with three people (and bigger people) hanging all over him.

Anna, a team with great athletes and the ability to score in bunches, couldn’t score in bunches on this night.  The closeness of the gym, the tough, physical Marion defense, and the frantic pace of the game?  Who knows?  It’s just a tough place to play.

And, the odds grew bigger at the start of the third quarter, as Marion came out on a 9-2 run that saw them take a 9-point lead at one point.

Too many got away…Marion’s Tyler Prenger grimaces as a would-be transition basket went through his hands and out of bounds.

But an old achilles heel for the Flyers raised its head (or its foot, whatever) once again.  Throughout the game, they missed one open shot attempt after another – many at the rim – leaving points on the table that would eventually come back to haunt them.

“It was disappointing,”  Flyer coach Kurt Goettemoeller would say afterwards.  “We’ve simply got to learn that we have to make make those shots.”

And here’s why.

There were some turnovers, and transition opportunities, that Anna suddenly found to their advantage.  Two points here, two there, and that second half lead became five, four, three…and then with Marion leading 41-38 midway through the fourth quarter, senior Wyatt Bensman, the Rockets’ most dependable three-point shooter, finally found one – a huge shot from NBA range from the top of the key to tie the score.

From that point they traded baskets, and leads, as the clock ran down.  Fouls began to mount on Marion, sending Anna to the line, where fate has not always been kind.  Two weeks ago they saw an identical opportunity go south against Russia in a like scenario.  But this time…Griffin Doseck hit a pair, Riley Huelskamp split a pair, and Bensman hit four of four to seal the eventual deal.

Conversely, fouls on this night proved to be an issue for the Flyers, as they squandered opportunities at the line…5 of 11 for the game, and just 45%.

Marion’s Nick Tangeman (left) and Wyatt Bensman struggle for a loose ball.

It was a win on the road, yes.  But more, a win that pleased Rockets’ coach Nate Barhorst, in particular, for the way that his team ‘did’ win.

“To be down nine points, and to have some resiliency to come through and hit some big shots at the end…I was very happy to see that,”  said Barhorst.  “We got more ball movement and did a better job against their physical style and I was happy to see that, because we have the big boys at Loramie coming up this week.

“And, we were able to hit some free throws at the end that enabled us to keep the lead.”

Wyatt Bensman’s big three pointer, and his eventual 18 points, again proved that if you’re going to beat this Rockets team you have to go through their ‘horse’.

Marion’s Nate Bruns blocks the shot attempt of Anna’s Drew Brodman.

“He’s a big game player,”  added Barhorst, matter-of-factly.  “He wants the ball in his hands when it matters most.”

On the other end of the hall Kurt Goettemoeller could only muse about what might have been.  Falling to 5-3 with the loss, one could make the case of  too much football, a late start because of that, and the time necessary to transition skills.  But Goettemoeller was having none of it.

“I’m absolutely not going to make any excuses in that regard,”  he snapped.  “Look, eight games is plenty of time.  At some point we’ve just got to knock down some shots.  We missed too many chippy ones and we have to learn that when teams double down on us we have to step up and make some shots. It’s disappointing because we’ve kicked away three leads now (in their losses).  It’s disappointing because our freshmen and JVs won tonight, and Tyler got his 1,000th point.  But we’ve got great kids and we’re going to get better.  But it’ll come.”

Tyler Mescher’s 1,000th point came in customary fashion…in the paint.

In fact, the glass is half full for Goettemoeller and the Flyers, with Mescher getting 19 points Friday, and Nate Bruns and Nick Tangeman each adding 10.  But only six Flyers in all scored, which makes Mescher and Bruns marked men against the tough defenses that they’re bound to see over the next fourteen games…beginning with Versailles next weekend.

For the Rockets, Bensman led them with his 18, while Griffin Doseck had 10, and five other players scored – Cathcart (9), Bixler (6), Fogt and Platfoot (3 each), and Huelskamp and Brodman had 2 points each.

But even bigger, a restoration of confidence as undefeated Loramie looms this coming Friday, and on the road, where wins in any conference come tough.

“That’s something you never want to tell the boys before a game,”  smiled Barhorst.  “After the game you let ’em know.  But I was happy to see that we had that comeback in us tonight, because there are times when you do doubt…wonder if you’re doing the right things.”

Well, Nate, right for a night, at least.  Because wins just don’t come any harder on the road (even Loramie)…than at Marion Local!

The two big men – Marion’s Tyler Mescher and Anna’s Wyatt Bensman battle at the rim.

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