WAPAKONETA – The Marion Local Flyers won their first district title in a decade with a dominating defensive effort in a 44-34 win over the Arlington Red Devils in a Division IV district title game at Wapakoneta High School on Friday night.
Marion Local held Arlington to seven or fewer points in three of the four quarters en route to the district championship.
“Once we were able to swat a few shots, they were a perimeter team,” Marion Local head coach Kurt Goettemoeller said. “We were able to match up on their shooters pretty good. They sank a couple three’s but I challenged our kids that our defense had to win the game for us and it did.”
Cole Griesdorn was the workhorse for Marion Local, as he scored a team-high 19 points. Luke Knapke just missed double figures with nine points and he had a couple big put backs in the fourth quarter to keep the Flyer lead in double digits.
“Cole (Griesdorn) was probably the difference for us on offense tonight,” Goettemoeller said. “He was the one who was knocking down some perimeter shots when nobody else did. He controlled things for us and he is a gutty player.”
The Flyers advance to face the Russia Raiders in a regional semifinal on Tuesday at Kettering-Fairmont, with a 5:30 p.m. tip-off. The Flyers beat the Raiders 59-57 in the regular season back on Feb. 15.
Marion Local last made the journey to the regional tournament in 2004 during its improbable run to the state title game after an 11-9 regular season. Friday’s game was the Flyers first trip to a district title game since losing to No. 1-ranked New Knoxville in 2007.
“Our path to the regional has been very difficult,” Goettemoeller said. “Going against our rival Minster, meeting up with Fort Recovery in a slow-down game and surviving Tuesday night like we did and Arlington is a very good opponent. So it was a tough stretch to the regional and hopefully that will make us battle tested to play Russia next week.”
The Red Devils ended their season at 19-5.
It was a defensive game in the first half. Neither team could get any points on the board until Cole Griesdorn sank one of two free throws nearly three minutes into the contest. The lead went back and forth the rest of the quarter with Ryan Bruns sinking two free throws with less than a second left to grab a 7-6 lead after eight minutes of play.
The scoring kept going back and forth as the second quarter began with Luke Knapke hitting a basket with three minutes left. Arlington’s Ryan McDowell sank a trey to tie the game at 11-all with 2:41 left before Griesdorn answered with a 3-pointer for Marion Local.
Bertke hit a basket with 25 seconds left to give the Flyers an 18-13 lead at halftime.
Arlington’s Blake Courtney hit a basket for Arlington to begin the second half. Griesdorn answered with a bomb to extend the lead to 21-15.
After Arlington’s Jordan Freed hit a 3-pointer, Marion Local proceeded to go on a 7-0 run to increase the lead to 26-18 with 4:29 left.
Arlington’s Andrew Hunter and Marion Local’s Griesdorn traded 3-pointers before McDowell hit two straight 3-pointers to cut the Marion Local lead to two at 29-27 with 40 seconds left in the third.
Griesdorn ended the third quarter with his fourth triple of the game for a 32-27 Marion Local lead.
The score stayed at 32-27 until 4:21 left in the game when Ryan Bruns hit a basket. With the score 36-32 Luke Knapke scored the first of his put backs with 2:28 left and the Flyers proceeded to hit free throws for the 44-34 victory.
Knapke said sometimes the best way to get the ball inside was to go get a missed shot.
“We were playing perimeter but not post up,” Knapke said. “It is tough to get points but the rebound was the easy way to go.”