Both coaches would say they welcomed the tournament atmosphere and test – intense, physical, and take nothing for granted. But Marion Local proved to be tournament ready with a 60-52 win over #3-ranked (Div. III) Arcanum.
Maria Stein, Oh – Marion Local coach Beth Streib would later say she enjoyed the tournament atmosphere, and test, of a great opponent like #3-ranked Arcanum Tuesday night. And with good reason.
Her unranked, yet 15-4 Flyers, played almost textbook basketball in a 60-52 win over the Division III Trojans, and again served notice to area tournament hopefuls in Division IV that an evening with Marion is nothing to take for granted. They really don’t care about rankings…they care about winning. And they showed it to one of southwest Ohio’s most impressive teams Tuesday. Arcanum was 15-1 entering play.
Arcanum boasts three players with 1,000 points already in their high school career, but Marion was unimpressed, and their hustle, intensity, and physical personality of play forced the Trojans to adjust. And if you’re not accustomed to the style or play you see regularly in the Midwest Athletic Conference, it takes more than 32 minutes.
Arcanum’s Hailey Unger, one or those 1,000 pointers, did score 32 points. But she had precious little help. Only two other Trojans even scored – Taylor Gray (16 pts.) and Madelyn Fearon (4 pts.) as Marion collapsed the passing lanes and denied the Trojans all but a few second-chance points. They scoured the offensive boards, making every first shot count. It took Arcanum a while to find the range.
Arcanum is a sound basketball team, but Marion matched them possession for possession, play for play, and point for point, jumping out of an 11-7 first quarter lead by finding ways to get to the rim for high percentage shots.
Arcanum is fond of throwing up three-pointers and scoring in transition. But the threes weren’t falling in the first half, and there weren’t many transition points because of Marion’s dominance on the boards.
“It’s something we stressed,” said Arcanum coach Abby Moore. “and offensive rebounding was a big focus of ours, so I’m a little bit disappointed.”
More than a little, probably, because Marion’s size and physicality (their focus, as well) on denying those opportunities made every Arcanum possession a one-and-done proposition.
Marion led 23-18 at the half, principally because Arcanum realized that they had to play defense until they got some kind of offensive flow going. They succeeded on all but Flyer senior, Lindsey Koenig, who quietly meddled around the paint and ended up scoring 9 of those 23 points.
But they say it’s a game of runs, and Arcanum came out of the locker room and quickly went on a two-possession run…Unger hitting a long three-pointer, and then followed with a rare transition bucket. Just like that the score was tied at 23.
Marion answered…with a 3-pointer by Olivia DeMange, and Molly Winner, physically bigger and stronger, went to work in the paint on Taylor Gray. Sammy Hoelscher added a 3-pointer from the wing and suddenly Marion had jumped to a 9-point lead, 37-28.
Arcanum (Unger, actually) began to warm to the challenge. And Taylor Gray’s attacking style at the rim was quicker, more athletic than Winner or anyone guarding her. The two of them fought back to cut the deficit to five points, but successive buckets…and a Hoelscher stickback on a bungled rebound at the buzzer stunned Arcanum. Marion led 43-34 at the end of the quarter.
Arcanum would come back again with a 5-0 run to start the fourth, but they couldn’t get timely stops on defense, and they couldn’t compete with Marion on the boards. Still, Hailey Unger made her presence felt with a pair of 3s and twelve points as she simply outran Marion to the rim on a couple of occasions. But it wasn’t enough. Fearon would score 4 points in the final minutes, and Gray suddenly went cold and scored just 2.
Still, it was a four-point game for most of the quarter as Marion was scoring from the free throw line while Unger was beating them two-for-one on the other end. The Flyers would cash on 9 of 13 in those eight minutes, however, to extend the final margin to 60-52.
Sammy Hoelscher was one of three Flyers to finish in double figures and enjoyed the challenge.
“It was like a tournament game,” said the Flyers senior. “We made some big shots…Olivia DeMange, Chloe Ronnebaum, Lindsey Koenig…and Coach told us we had to deny them on the boards.”
Beth Streib seconded that emotion.
“Like Sammy said, that’s one of the things we’ve been harping on, boxing out and rebounding. There’s nothing more deflating to your defense than them missing a shot then getting the rebound and scoring on a stickback.”
And the impact of Molly Winner in the paint cannot go without mention.
“She’s a great kid,” added Streib. “She hit some key shots when they would make a run – different people hit shots to keep the margin at five or six – Molly, Chloe Ronnebaum came off the bench to hit some big shots, Sammy did what Sammy does to hit shots, Lindsey played well again, and Stella Huelsman had a big shot towards the end. This was just a great team effort.”
Hoelscher would have a team-high 14, Koenig followed with 13, Ronnebaum had 12, Winner had 8, DeMange finished with 7, and Huelsman had 6 points.
For Arcanum, one could have kept score on a cocktail napkin. Hailey Unger had an impressive 32 points to lead everyone, Taylor Gray had her 16…and Madelyn Fearon had 4. Just three players scored.
Abby Moore, a fiercely competitive shooting guard when she played at Franklin-Monore, appreciated the experience for the dividends she hopes it will pay down the road.
“This was a great game to have at this time of the year,” she said. “A good eye-opener. I’ve said it…I love coming up north and playing these teams because you gotta’ play physical and aggressive. Because, come tournament time that’s what you’re going to get the further you go.
If she doesn’t score another point all year, Hailey Unger more than earned her senior letter with those 32 points. She single-handedly was the ‘run’ the Trojans needed throughout the game, scoring on drives, mid-range, and from behind the arc.
“Yeah, she was patient to let the offense work, didn’t force things, and when it came to her she did a great job,” said Moore. “But it takes everyone to get that ball rolling, and when we make those runs we’ve got to finish them, and we’ve got to get that little extra to get over the hump. That’s where we struggled tonight.”
Arcanum drops to 15-2 by way of record, but the “eye-opening experience” meant more to Moore than the prospect of dropping a place or two in next week’s polls. They’re a #1 seed in the Springfield Division III sectional, and have a fortunate draw with a #19 and #20 seed for their first two games. After that…you never know, but it’s bound to be more intense than a December game at home.
It’s why you play those game with teams up north on February 1st. Regardless of who wins…you still win!