MARIA STEIN — Marion Local’s gym has been renowned for decades for a tough place for opponents to win at. There’s little room between the stands and the court, and large crowds and little soundproofing make The Hangar as loud as an airplane hangar.
The environment and a large boisterous Marion Local crowd didn’t make things easy for Anna on Saturday night. Neither did bad spans at the start of the first and third quarters.
But the Rockets rallied in the fourth quarter took off from The Hangar with a come-from-behind 53-49 win.
“It’s something you never want to tell the boys coming in here, but after the game you let them know,” Anna coach Nate Barhorst said of the gym. “It is hard to win here. Ever since I was playing here, coming here in high school, it’s always been a battle trying to steal a W. But I’m kind of glad to see we had that in us.”
Marion Local jumped out to a 9-2 lead early, but Anna cut the deficit to one point by the end of the first quarter. The Flyers then pulled out to a big lead in the second half by going on a 14-2 run over the first seven minutes of the third quarter.
But Anna, which trailed 38-28 at the end of the third, picked up the pressure on defense and scored several fast buckets early in the fourth to get back in the game. Riley Huelskamp and Wyatt Bensman then hit free throws in the final 30 seconds to help secure the win.
“We just really wanted it,” Bensman said. “It was make-it-or-break-it, really. Everybody came out and played together and hustled. We wanted it more than the other team, I feel like.”
Bensman scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to help Anna (9-2, 4-1 Shelby County Athletic League) come back.
The Rockets held a 51-49 lead with 16 seconds left after Huelskamp went 1 for 2 at the free-throw line after a foul. Marion Local missed a shot, got the rebound and tried to call a timeout while Anna fought for the ball. The Flyers had used all their timeouts, though, which resulted in a technical foul.
Bensman hit two free throws with two seconds left to clinch the win.
“It was good to see him do that,” Barhorst said. “He’s just a player. He wants the ball in his hands when it matters most. That’s Wyatt for you.”
The score was tied 24-24 at halftime but Marion Local went ahead fast in the third quarter.
Nathan Bruns hit a 3-pointer 30 seconds into the quarter to start the Flyers off, then Tyler Mescher hit back-to-back baskets to extend the lead to 30-24 with 5:53 left. The second basket Mescher hit in that stretch put him over 1,000 career points.
After the game was stopped to recognize Mescher, Marion Local kept scoring. A basket by Anna cut the deficit to four points, but the Flyers scored the next eight to take a 38-26 lead.
“They moved the ball around well and got drive penetration, which hurt us,” Barhorst said. “That drive penetration caused them to put shots up that gave them offensive opportunities with rebounding, and I thought they kind of hurt us on the boards there.”
Bensman completed a three-point play with 3.4 seconds left in the third, and Anna kept its run up in the fourth.
After Matt Rethman hit a basket with 5:43 left to put Marion Local ahead 41-35, Anna responded with a 10-0 run over the next two minutes. Bensman and Joel Cathcart hit 3-pointers during the run, while Griffin Doseck added two free throws and Bart Bixler scored a basket in the paint.
But Bensman said the biggest thing during the run was limiting Marion Local to one-shot possessions. That’s not easy to do since the Flyers feature the likes of 6-foot-6 junior center Nathan Bruns and 6-2, 240-pound forward Tyler Mescher.
“I feel like we really upped our tempo and were more in their grille boxing out (in the fourth),” Bensman said. “That’s a big team right there, and if you don’t box out, you’re going to lose. I feel like our big guys did a great job rebounding, and as a whole we did a great job rebounding.”
Nick Tangeman hit a shot for Marion Local to tie the score 45-45 with 2:29 left. Drew Brodman hit a shot off the glass for Anna with 1:54 left, then Bensman hit two free throws with 43 seconds left to put the Rockets ahead 49-45.
Bruns hit a shot after a drive with 32 seconds left to pull Marion Local within 50-47. Huelskamp made a free throw two seconds later to increase the lead to three, then Tangeman hit a shot off the glass with 17 seconds left to cut the lead to one point. The Flyers didn’t score again.
“We came out sluggish to start the second half,” Barhorst said. “They came out and played good, solid defense against us. We struggled on shooting I thought overall, but when it counted, we were able to put them in. That’s why I’m so happy with this group. Just a resilient bunch of kids and never gave up.”
Doseck added 10 points for Anna, while Cathcart finished with nine. Anna hit 9-of-13 free-throw attempts.
The Rockets won’t play again until an SCAL showdown at Fort Loramie on Friday. The Redskins (10-0, 5-0) are in first place in the league while Anna and Russia (7-4, 5-1) are close behind.
“Huge week, and our kids know it,” Barhorst said. “We’ve got to drill, drill, drill and get better.”
Mescher led Marion Local with 19 points while Bruns and Tangeman each scored 10. The Flyers made 5-of-11 foul shots.
Marion Local (5-3, 2-0 Midwest Athletic Conference) plays next on Friday at home against Versailles (10-0, 3-0).
Anna finished the first quarter on a 12-4 run to take a 14-13 lead. Tyler Pregner hit a free throw to open the second quarter, and the teams traded baskets until halftime.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.