Van Wert’s Joey Hurless looks to pass in a game at the Elida Fieldhouse Friday evening. The Cougars were back in action Saturday when they defeated Marion Local 54-45. (TB file photo)
Van Wert’s Joey Hurless looks to pass in a game at the Elida Fieldhouse Friday evening. The Cougars were back in action Saturday when they defeated Marion Local 54-45. (TB file photo)

Times Bulletin Correspondent

MARIA STEIN - Tall and patient Marion Local gave Van Wert a test at both ends of the court Saturday night, but the Cougars held on for a 54-45 win. Van Wert is now 7-4. The Flyers are 3-5. Note: Although the scoreboard showed a final of 53-45, the correct score was 54-45.

The hosts' starting lineup went 6'9, 6'6, 6'5, 6'3, and 5'10. Marion Local played a zone defense until forced to play catch-up in the final minutes, and at the offensive end the Flyers were deliberate and methodical. That combination forced the Cougars to be very patient, a style which isn't to their liking, but they handled it in fine fashion.

"It's difficult (against the Marion Local defense)," said Van Wert coach Dave Froelich. "We tried to stay wide and create some gaps, but it's hard to against that length. Once we got the ball from side to side and got some dribble penetration with Joey (Hurless), we had some spot-up shooters. Fortunately, we made enough tonight to hang around."

The other end required patience as well. "We tried to defend it inside, but it's hard to do," added Froelich. "We just increased the pressure on their guard play, and didn't let their bigs get as comfortable. When they got comfortable and got a touch, high-low, we had no answer, but we made it difficult enough for the guards to give us a chance."

The Flyers went on a 6-0 run late in the third period to seize a 34-32 lead at 2:05, but Van Wert countered with a 9-0 stretch which straddled the third quarter break and created a 41-34 lead, which proved to be insurmountable. Those nine points came on an AJ Smith free throw, a Logan Ray free throw, two freebies by Caleb Markward, a Ray layup (assist Hurless) at the third quarter buzzer, and a straightaway three by Smith with seven minutes left in the game. Local's Jacy Goettemoeller drained a three from the left wing to keep it interesting, but Smith scored on a nifty baseline drive - 43-37 at 5:51. Dustin Rethman trumped Smith's bucket with a jumper from the right elbow, and it was still a game, 43-39. However, the Flyers were forced out of their zone, and it quickly became a question of whether Van Wert could hit enough free throws to hold on. The Cougars hit 11 of 18 free throws from that point on, which was enough. Smith started it by hitting both ends of a one-and-one, as did Hurless a minute later.

In their next seven trips to the line - all double bonus situations - the Cougars split the pair every time. Van Wert only attempted three field goals in the entire quarter, hitting two of those.

During a very slow first quarter, Van Wert went ahead 8-2, getting two treys from Smith. However, Marion Local ended the period with a 10-0 run to lead 12-8 at the break. Hurless started the second period with his own personal 9-1 run - two threes from the right wing, a free throw, and a steal/layup - 17-13, Van Wert, with 5:33 remaining in the half. The Flyers, however, came back to tie it at 18, and the visitors led 21-20 at the break. There were four ties and four lead changes in the third period. Both teams shot well from field, the Flyers 50 percent (18 of 36), the Cougars 47 percent (14 of 33); however, eight of Van Wert's fielders were from long range, while only three of Marion Local's were. The Cougs hit 60 percent (18 of 30) from the line, the Flyers 67 percent (6 of 9). Local had the edge on the boards, 19-16, but Van Wert had fewer turnovers, 9 to 14. The Cougars had only one turnover in the entire second half.

Smith (24) and Hurless (16) had big scoring games, but nobody else had more than six. Ryan Bruns (17) was the Flyers' only double-digit scorer.

"This was tough to do to bounce back tonight, to go on the road and try to do this against an athletic team like that," said a happy Froelich. "We spent it last night. We had a tough week. I'm really proud of their approach. I worried last night about how they'd do (after losing to Carroll on Tuesday and losing a big game to Elida on a buzzer-beater Friday night). That's a credit to them."

The Van Wert junior varsity is now 10-1 after its 52-32 win. Nick Keber, Drew Myers, and Brant Henry led the Cougar scoring with14, 10, and 9.

Score by quarters:

Marion Local 12 8 14 11 - 45 Van Wert 8 13 17 16 - 54

Marion Local (45)

Rethman 1 0-0 2, Bruns 7 3-4 17, Luke Knapke 3 2-2 8, Bertke 3 0-0 6, Hess 0 0-0 0, Homan 1 0-0 3, Goettemoeller 2 1-2 7, Seitz 0 0-0 0, Brunswick 1 0-1 2, Clint Knapke 0 0-0 0, Mescher 0 0-0 0, Nagel 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 6-9 45.

Van Wert (53)

Smith 7 5-8 24, Hurless 4 5-8 16, Holliday 0 2-4 2, Ray 1 1-2 3, Wolford 2 2-4 6, Markward 0 2-2 2, Keber 0 1-2 1, Wortman 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 18-30 54.

Three-point field goals: Marion Local 3 (Goettemoeller 2, Homan), Van Wert 8 (Smith 5, Hurless 3).