Title Town: Marion Local Wins 2OT Classic To Win D4 Hoops Crown

By: 
Brian Smith
Staff Writer

Tyler Mescher walked off the Schottenstein Center floor a champion and forever a part of Marion Local basketball lore after two knee-buckling, double-overtime free throws.

He also had to verify what he just experienced.

“I had to ask one of the guys after the game, ‘Was that double overtime?’” the Marion Local senior said. “I was so caught up in the game.”

It was double overtime. And it was one of the most intense games Ohio’s Division IV has seen in years, as more than 9,600 fans watched Marion Local and Cornerstone Christian battle for six quarters of basketball highlighted by physical play, multiple last-minute heroic shots and those two Mescher free throws that gave the Flyers a 52-51 win in the Division IV state championship game on Saturday.

It was just the 16th game to reach a double overtime at the state level in the long history of OHSAA basketball tournament history and only the sixth time a championship game went to double overtime.

“It was a whale of a high school basketball game,” said Marion Local head coach Kurt Goettemoeller said. “I don’t know how to describe it.”

It was the first double-overtime game at the OHSAA state tournament since 2009 and had drama throughout. There was no more theatrical moment than when Mescher stepped to the free throw line with a state title on the line with less than three seconds left in double overtime.

The first of the two free throws, earned after Mescher went up with what looked like a clear path to the basket for a go-ahead lay-up was stopped by a foul with 2.6 seconds left, captivated the arena.

“I couldn’t stay still,” Mescher said of the seconds leading up to those all-important free throws. “Ty (Prenger) came up to me and told me to relax, they’re easy shots and you’ve got this.”

The brawny 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior toed the line, lifted up the leg of his shorts and took the ball, bouncing it once near where the Big Ten logo had been peeled off the Schott floor. After releasing the ball, Mescher’s toss hit the front right part of the rim, hit the glass, hit the right back corner of the rim and then snaked around the front of the rim before falling like a slippery putt at Augusta. Mescher’s reaction, with his arms still skward, was a relieved bow to the floor.

“I think we got a little help from upstairs and it rolled right in,” Mescher said.

When Mescher bounced in the second, Marion Local had a one-point lead that held up when Cornerstone Christian’s desperation heave from three-quarter court hit the backboard but never threatened to go down.

“It’s a dream come true to shoot those free throws,” Mescher said. “Any little kid, that’s their dream to be able to shoot two free throws at the end of a state championship game, make them both and help your team win.”

The Flyers celebrated the Flyers’ third boys basketball state title in program history in a pile near the scorer’s table near midcourt, yet another championship chapter for school and senior class that celebrated yet another state football title — their 10th in school history — in Canton just a few months ago.

That Flyer celebration seemed increasingly unlikely a couple times on Saturday, as Cornerstone Christian led by more than one possession in the  final two minutes of both regulation and the first overtime.

“We couldn’t knock them out,” Cornerstone Christian head coach Dan Selle said. “That’s a credit to great coaching and a lot of young men who believe in themselves. Marion Local is not afraid of the big stage. We had them by five in regulation and four a couple times in overtime and we just couldn’t give them the knockout punch.”

“We were down at the end of regulation, we were down at the end of overtime,” Goettemoeller said. “Just compete. We’ll figure it out.”

Marion Local turned to 6-foot-6 junior Nathan Bruns when they needed baskets late. Down five with 1:46 left in regulation, Bruns knocked down a trey from the corner.

Mescher then tied the game with a lay-up with 39 seconds left. The game went to overtime when Cornerstone Christian’s shot at the buzzer went long.

In the first overtime, Cornerstone again seemed to grab control and be just minutes away from the second state title in three years. Down three and time running out, Bruns delivered a game-tying 3-pointer,, with help from teammate Collin Everman.

Marion Local had  Everman throw a one-handed laser football pass off the inbounds to the far left corner, where Bruns caught it and fired a 3-pointer that drove through the net on a line with 15.9 seconds left that knotted the game up 46-46 and sent the sizable Marion Local crowd stationed behind one of the baskets into a tizzy.

“We ran a play called Sylvester from when (Ohio State’s Matt) Sylvester hit a 3-pointer against Illinois,” Goettemoeller said. “We ran it last year in the district final against Wayne Trace and he hit  the three to win it. This time we ran it as a sideline out of bounds play. We made a great pass and the sucker hit it again. He’s a stud.”

Everman’s gasp-inducing pass all the way across the floor to the opposite sideline was pinpoint-accurate.

“That’s one of those unsung heroes,” said Goettemoeller. “It’s not going to show up in the scoring.”

In the second OT, Cornerstone Christian’s Ricky Adams buried a go-ahead 3-pointer in the left corner that put the Patriots up 51-50 with 27 seconds left before Mescher delivered the game-winning free throws on the next possession.

“I thought that was going to be the back-breaker for them, but it turned out it wasn’t,” Selle said.