ST. MARYS — The St. Marys boys basketball team looked like it was on the cusp of running away with Saturday night’s game against Marion Local, holding a a nine-point lead in the waning minutes of the third quarter. Instead, it was the Flyers who ended up speeding away.
Marion Local outscored St. Marys 18-5 in the fourth quarter with a momentum-shifting defensive change to fullcourt pressure and a 3-2 zone and knocked off the Roughriders 45-38.
Marion Local (1-0) opened its season with a win after delaying its season because of its run to the Division VII state football championship. The Flyers were rusty, head coach Kurt Goettemoeller admitted, but by the end of the game the long and athletic Flyers showed the kind of promise they possess.
“I had no idea what to expect,” Goettemoeller said. “I knew we wouldn't shoot the ball very well. We’ve installed a new offense and a new defense and it takes time and you can’t do it in a week and a half.”
The Flyers sped up the pace and the Roughriders’ turnover rate. St. Marys had 19 miscues in a game where possessions came at a premium.
“In the fourth quarter I felt we needed to uptempo the game,” Goettemoeller said. “They were running circles around our 2-3 zone and running clock. They were running clock and having good possessions, so we went to a fullcourt press and 3-2 zone and they struggled against both of those and got some turnovers.”
“I thought we had some momentum and then Kurt went to that 32 and it just stymied us,” St. Marys head coach Dan Hegemier said.
The Flyers’ sizable front line did much of the damage. Luke Knapke led the way with 13 points, Ryan Bruns added 12 points and Adam Bertke pitched in eight points. All three are 6-foot-6 or taller and got into passing lanes in the zone defense, beat the Riders on lobs into the paint for easy finishes and helped the Flyers grab 13 offensive rebounds.
“They’re awful long,” Hegemier said. “You make some mistakes against them and you’re going to pay for it.”
St. Marys held its own in the paint, though. Quinn Zaerr scored 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting, taking advantage of the high-low post game.
St. Marys freshman Derek Jay led the Roughriders with 15 points, knocking down 4 of 8 three-pointers. It’s Jay’s first double-digit scoring games, as the first-year player broke out of his shooting slump with the kind of night Goettemoeller expects will become routine.
Jay’s 3-pointer with 3:43 left in the third quarter put the Riders up 31-22.
“He’s going to be a really nice player,” Goettemoeller said. “We don’t have our match-ups down on our 2-3 zone yet and we knew he was a shooter and we shouldn’t leave him open. But they were doing some nice things, Coach Hegemier schemed up against a zone well and got him free.”
But St. Marys couldn’t make the Flyers pay from the outside consistently. St. Marys went just 5 of 18 (27.8 percent) from 3-point range.
Marion Local went on a 16-0 run, highlighted by a Bruns alley oop dunk that cut the Rider lead to 33-31. Marion Local tied it up at 33-33 with two Knapke free throws and took the lead for good with a Dustin Rethman 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter.
St. Marys missed a chance to win back-to-back games and give Hegemier his 500th victory at home. Now Hegemier will go for his milestone win on Friday at New Knoxville, where he led the Rangers to the 2008 state championship.