An admonition to have fun, an injured shooting thumb and half of an arena dressed in blue — all part of the reason Marion Local is finally going to the state basketball tournament.
The Flyers did everything right Friday night and rolled past Fort Loramie 62-47 in a Division IV regional final at Trent Arena. The Flyers lost at this stage three times in the past four years.
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Next for the Flyers (23-4) is their first state semifinal since 2004 at 2 p.m. Thursday in Columbus against Pandora-Gilboa (26-1). “No school Thursday,” the student-section chanted.
The recent regional losses weren’t too heavy for the Flyers. Their fast start fueled the fun. When Fort Loramie (25-3) called timeouts, the Flyers went enthusiastically to the bench with flying chest bumps.
Flyers coach Kurt Goettemoeller credited a friend for some good advice.
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“His advice was simply to go out, enjoy it and have fun and stop putting pressure on yourself,” he said. “I asked my kids to fight, and I asked them to focus and I asked them to have fun. We did all three of those things.”
The fight, focus and fun began with defense. The Flyers did not allow a field goal until the 4:02 mark of the second quarter after building an 18-4 lead.
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“We knew every single set they had,” Flyers senior Tyler Mescher said. “We were calling them out before they were even calling them out.”
Flyers senior guard Tyler Prenger sure had fun. March is a time for unlikely heroes, and Prenger had the biggest night of his basketball life. He made three 3-pointers in the first half, five in the game, six late free throws and scored 23 points. He averages seven points a game and had not shot well in recent games.
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“Coach said we always need people to step up, and tonight was just my night,” said Prenger, who was backed by Nathan Bruns’ 17 points.
The bad shooting thumb? That was Prenger’s. He ruptured a ligament in Tuesday’s semifinal victory over Springfield Catholic Central. The black and blue was covered by athletic tape.
“We didn’t know how good he would be, but it probably helped his shooting,” Goettemoeller said. “He was confident, he wanted the ball, he wanted to make shots.”
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And the fans in blue were having a blast, too. The arena seats 3,650 fans. Half were in blue and half were in Fort Loramie red and black. Despite a double-digit lead for most of the game, each basket or big play was loudly cheered. The Fort Loramie fans kept expecting their team, which beat Marion Local by 12 points on Feb. 3, to come back and win.
The Redskins made a run in the fourth quarter and cut their deficit to seven when Southwest District Division IV player of the year Dillon Braun (19 points) made a 3-pointer with 4:02 left. But the Flyers responded with an 8-0 run.
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That was the end for the Redskins, who won the Shelby County League title and set a school record for victories.
“Our kids aren’t going to be proud of it, but they’ll look back on it some day and appreciate what they did,” Redskins coach Corey Britton said. “Four months is a long basketball season — those kids made it fun day in and day out.”
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