The Marion Warriors girls’ basketball team stuck to the script that has plagued them all season Friday against the Bennington Bulldogs. Marion fell behind by double-digits in the first half before making a second-half comeback that ended painfully too soon.
The Warriors started the game in a 2-3 zone defense to try to limit the Bulldogs post players, but Bennington’s outside shooters forced Marion to switch to a man-to-man defense fairly early. The first quarter ended with Marion trailing 12-4. Katey Ehrlich scored on a drive and Megan Richmond made a basket out of Marion’s press-break offense.
With the switch to man-to-man defense, it was up to Kaelyn Thierolf to guard the Bulldogs taller post players, a familiar assignment for her this season.
“She goes to battle every night,” coach Kelly Robson said. “She knows what’s coming.
“She’s been kind of sick this week, so tonight’s effort is even greater than usual,” he added.
Bennington extended its lead to as much as 12 in the second quarter, although Marion’s offense improved greatly. Kelli Hess made a jump shot from the free-throw line, Erin Meierhoff hit a jumper on the baseline and drove through the defense in the lane on another score. Thierolf banked in a jump shot, and Balee Shiplet scored on a jump shot of her own. Meierhoff banked in a three-pointer with a minute left in the half to bring Marion within nine, 26-17. A Bennington free throw sent the game to halftime with a score of 27-17.
Right on schedule, the Warriors made their run to get back in the game in the third quarter. A timeout on the first possession of the quarter to avoid a 10-second violation paid off when Thierolf scored off an offensive rebound. Ehrlich forced a five-second violation by Bennington then scored in the lane and made a free throw. A left corner three-pointer by Meierhoff cut the deficit to 30-25.
Kirsten Hansen made a jump shot, and Ehrlich made 1-of-2 free throws to bring Marion within two, 30-28. While the Warriors had been in foul trouble in the first half, the Bulldogs were the ones who found themselves in foul trouble in the third quarter.
Thierolf then got a steal and passed it ahead to Hansen to tie the game at 30, but the tie didn’t last for long, as Bennington answered with back-to-back baskets to regain a four-point lead. Hansen made a pair of free throws to end the third quarter with Marion trailing 34-32.
“Keep attacking, keep shooting,” Robson told the team during the break between quarters. “You’re doing well.”
Thierolf tied the game again at 34 with a basket in the lane, but Bennington built another lead. Ehrlich responded by making a pair of free throws, Thierolf scored on a drive, and Hess hit a three-pointer to keep the game close at 44-41.
Bennington went into a delaying offense with a five-point lead and two minutes left. The Warriors were forced to foul to extend the game, but Bennington made 11-of-12 free throws down the stretch to hold off Marion, despite a free throw by Ehrlich and another three-pointer by Hess. Bennington won, 57-45.