Marion Local to Play for State Title on Saturday

Brian Smith
Staff Writer

 Foul trouble took Nathan Bruns out of the game and out of his game for much of Thursday afternoon’s Division IV state semifinal against Pandora-Gilboa.

Luckily for the 6-foot-6 junior standout, he has a senior leader and bulldog in the paint like Tyler Mescher as a teammate to pick up the slack while he was sitting before he could re-join his teammates on the floor and take over the game late.

 After a couple easy baskets from point-blank range on cuts to the hoop and a couple defensive stops in the second half, Bruns was ready to make his mark at the Schottenstein Center.

Picking up two fouls in the opening minutes of the game put the versatile Bruns on the bench.

“It was definitely frustrating to have to go to the bench and not play during the first half,” Bruns said. “I just had to play smarter than that.”

Bruns took over in the closing minutes, scoring 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter while picking the pocket of a Pandora-Gilboa dribbler with 1:18 left to help the Flyers secure a 56-54 win over P-G that punched the Flyers’ ticket to Saturday morning’s state championship game against Cornerstone Christian.

Bruns finished the game with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting and a 5-for-5 night at the free throw line along with seven rebounds and the all-important steal despite being limited to 19 minutes on the floor.

The constant swirl of the Flyers’ motion offense created some wide-open looks at the basket at key points in the game, allowing Marion Local to shoot 22-of-39 from the floor, with 13 assists on those 22 made shots. Included were a couple easy lay-ups created for Bruns on cuts to the basket.

“I think those easy baskets got me going,” Bruns said.

Marion Local’s length and strength played a big part in the game. The Flyers outrebounded P-G 24-13. Marion Local hauled in nine offensive rebounds.  Marion Local outscored Pandora-Gilboa 38-22 in the paint.

A big reason for Mescher scored a team-high 17 points — 12 of those coming during the first half when Bruns was cemented to the bench by the foul trouble. Mescher never left the floor, playing all 32 minutes of the game.

“That’s nice to know you’ve got another scorer out there,” Bruns said.

“We had to nurse Nathan Bruns through the whole rest of the half,” Marion Local head coach Kurt Goettemoeller said. “I thought Tyler Mescher was a warrior for us in the first half.”

Pandora-Gilboa standout senior and future Huntington College player Drew Johnson scored a game-high 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Marion Local slowed the 6-foot-5 southpaw to five second-half points after he scored 12 points in the first quarter and 19 in the first half.