Dakota Prichard (31) of Spencerville passes out of a double team during a Division III district semifinal game against Marion Local at Lima Senior on Thursday evening. (DHI Media/John Parent)
Dakota Prichard (31) of Spencerville passes out of a double team during a Division III district semifinal game against Marion Local at Lima Senior on Thursday evening. (DHI Media/John Parent)

LIMA — Spencerville senior Dakota Prichard scored 22 points, connecting on half of his 12 shot attempts overall and 2 of 4 from 3-point range. His last attempt, however, fell short as Marion Local escaped the Bearcats and advanced to Saturday’s Division III district title game with a 44-42 win at Lima Senior High School.

With 6.7 seconds showing, Prichard pulled up from three feet behind the 3-point arc and took a contested shot for the win. Marion Local’s Nathan Bruns got his body into the shooter and created contact, but no whistle blew. Flyer junior Tyler Mescher caught the air-ball and dribbled out the clock to clinch a date against Wayne Trace for a district crown.

“He got fouled. It was pretty clear to us, but that’s not what lost us the game,” Spencerville head coach Kevin Sensabaugh said of Prichard’s final shot. “We came out the first half and played about as poorly as we’ve played in a long time.”

Marion Local (16-8) was led by Mescher’s 17 points, including six straight to open the second quarter, expanding an early Flyer lead to a 13-8 advantage before Sensabaugh burned a timeout. Six straight points by Prichard brought the Bearcats back, at least momentarily, but a trey from Bruns highlighted a an 11-4 Flyer run to end the half.

The lead grew to as many as 13 when Bruns picked off a Bearcat pass, one of 18 turnovers forced by the Flyers, and took it the distance for a 26-13 scoreboard early in the third.

“You just can’t put yourself in a hole like that. It just wasn’t a good enough effort tonight,” Sensabaugh said. “I thought we looked a little tired; we just looked like we didn’t have as much energy as you’d hope. You have to play well at this stage of the season and we didn’t play well enough tonight.”

Perhaps sensing their season about to slip away, the Bearcats (18-6) fought back. A 7-2 spurt gave Spencerville some life, but Bruns canned an open three on a defensive miscommunication to push the margin back to 11 at 31-20. The Bearcats continued to claw, however, and were down by eight with time winding down in the period when Daniel Corso forced a turnover and Prichard drained a 28-foot 3-pointer as the horn sounded to pull Spencerville to within 34-29 after three quarters.

“That was a big shot, and it was a big play, an important play for us. At that point we were pressuring the basketball a little bit more,” Sensabaugh said. “We just didn’t do that very much early; we seemed tentative early and they were the more aggressive team. That’s what happens.”

A Gary Schrolucke triple pulled the Bearcats to within 34-32 early in the final period, and Spencerville cut the lead down to one on two occasions. A pair of Bruns free throws, part of his 6-point fourth quarter, put Marion Local ahead by four, but Prichard connected on a fadeaway, contested 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 43-42 with 15.7 seconds left. After Matt Rethman made one of two free throws, Prichard and the Bearcats had their final look and a controversial end to an otherwise stellar season.

“It was a great year; we won a league championship, we won our seventh straight sectional championship, and those are things to be proud of,” Sensabaugh said. “Like I told the guys in (the locker room), ‘every team feels this way at some point except for one.’ Ours just came a little earlier than we would have liked.”

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MARION LOCAL (44)

Nathan Bruns 6-9 2-2 16, Collin Everman 0-1 2-2 2, Matt Rethman 1-3 1-2 4, Tyler Prenger 1-3 0-0 3, Tyler Mescher 7-19 3-5 17, Ryan Thobe 1-2 0-0 2, Kyle Koenig 0-2 0-0 0, Matt Kahlig 0-2 0-0 0, Jack Buening 0-0 0-0 0; Totals 16-41 8-11 44

SPENCERVILLE (42)

Daniel Corso 1-5 1-2 3, Dak Prichard 6-12 8-10 22, Gary Schrolucke 2-5 0-0 5, Bailey Croft 5-10 0-0 10, Griffen Croft 0-3 0-0 0, Ben Dues 1-2 0-0 2, Drew Armstead 0-0 0-0 0; Totals 15-37 9-12 42

Marion Local 7 17 10 10 - 44

Spencerville 5 8 16 13 - 42

3-point field goals: ML 4-12 (Bruns 2, Rethman, Prenger), Svl 3-8 (Prichard 2, Schrolucke); Rebounds: ML 22 (Mescher 9), Svl 26 (BCroft 11); Assists: ML 6 (Everman 3), Svl 5 (Prichard 2); Turnovers ML 12, Svl 18; Fouls: ML 11, Svl 15