PITSBURG – The Franklin Monroe fans went from an extreme high to stunned silence in a matter of seconds Saturday night as Marion Local hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to defeat the Jets 40-37.
With less than a minute left in the fourth quarter, the Franklin Monroe boys basketball team erased a five-point deficit to tie Marion Local 37-37 and ignite the Jet faithful. But then as time expired, the Flyers’ Dustin Rethman sank a 3-pointer to silence the home crowd.
Even though his team suffered a tough loss, Franklin Monroe coach Troy Myers spoke proudly about his team’s resiliency Saturday night.
“I see resiliency in our kids who … they’re starting to understand toughness, not physical toughness but mental and emotional toughness,” he said. “They’re starting to understand that.
“You’re down five with 50 seconds, we get five points in a matter of 20 seconds, you defend for really 25 seconds, and a kid hits a buzzer beater at the end. To me, that’s pretty extraordinary, and it has nothing to do with me because we didn’t call a timeout in those 50 seconds. Our kids battled and understood what had to take place, and they got the job done. Unfortunately you get beat on a three. Like I said, sometimes it happens that way. But tonight it didn’t go our way, but we hold our heads high and leave here with a lot of encouragement as we grew this weekend.”
The game started off well for Franklin Monroe as the Jets held the Flyers to just four first quarter points, all from 6-foot 9-inch Luke Knapke, to take a 9-4 lead. Martin Maksvytis sank a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter for Franklin Monroe while Travis Feitshans added a bucket and Devin Fourman contributed a free throw.
Feitshans and Fourman hit 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the second quarter, extending Franklin Monroe’s lead to 15-4. But with Jet center Trey Mong facing foul trouble, Marion Local cut Franklin Monroe’s lead to 16-13 by halftime thanks in part to its inside presence.
“I like how we play on the defensive end right now,” Myers said. “Really it keeps us in games. It allows us to do things offensively when you get stops. We did that early.
“Big man got in foul trouble there in the second quarter and had to come out of the game. Their front line is so big that we had trouble matching up late in the second quarter. They got some easy buckets. That wasn’t the difference in the game, but it hurt us when our big man went out. And their size is something to deal with.”
Early in the their quarter Feitshans scored four points to extend Franklin Monroe’s lead back to 20-13. But then Marion Local started attacking the rim more aggressively as 6-foot 6-inch Adam Bertke and 6-foot 5-inch Ryan Bruns scored the game’s next six points to cut the lead to a single point, 20-19.
Over the course of the final 3:57 of the third quarter, the teams only accounted for two points, a bucket by Marion Local’s Cole Griesdorn to give the Flyers a 21-20 lead entering the fourth quarter – their first lead since 2-0 early in the first quarter.
The teams battled back and forth through the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, with Franklin Monroe clinging to a 28-27 lead. Maksvytis then extended the lead to four points as he sank a 3-pointer, making it 31-27 in favor of Franklin Monroe.
The Flyers answered with a Rethman 3-pointer to make it a one-point game again. After Feitshans made a free throw to increase the lead back to two points, Griesdorn sank a 3-pointer to give Marion Local a 33-32 lead. The Flyers extended the lead to five points, 37-32, with a basket by Bertke and two free throws by Rethman.
Down by five with less than 45 seconds to go, Feitshans made it a one-possession game by draining a 3-pointer. As the Flyers tried to throw the ball down court on the ensuing inbound pass, the Jets came up with the steal and Feitshans drove the lane to score and tie the game at 37-37.
As the clock ticked down, Marion Local passed the ball around until just a few seconds remained and Rethman fired off a 3-point attempt, sinking it and sealing a 40-37 win for Marion Local.
“Like I told the kids in the locker room, they fought extremely hard for four quarters,” Myer said. “Through the first part of our season, 16 games, we’ve really yet to put four quarters together, quite honestly. Did we make mistakes tonight? Yes we did, but our effort through four quarters was tremendous. I’m extremely proud of the effort that our kids gave.
“You get beat on a last-second shot from 24 feet. I mean, it’s tough. We’ve been on the other end of the stick once this year, and now we’re on this end. But I know that I will have kids in here on Monday ready to battle and really prepare for a stretch run in conference that we have a very good shot at with a little bit of help from somebody else to secure a top spot.”
Franklin Monroe was led by Feitshans’ game-high 21 points Saturday night. Maksvytis scored nine points, and Fourman added seven.
“It was difficult,” Myers said about the Jets being limited to three scorers. “Honestly on paper it probably looks a lot worse than it was. We only played about a five-and-a-half man rotation. Their zone is good. Their length causes you problems, and even on ball reversal they get hands in passing lanes, and it’s tough to score against. But that’s the way the MAC plays. It’s a physical game. It’s a lengthy game. They’re always big. I’m not disappointed with the scoring. We just came out on the wrong end of the stick.”
Rethman led Marion Local with 10 points while Bruns scored nine, Bertke scored eight, Luke Knapke scored six, Griesdorn scored five, and Clint Knapke scored two.
Myers said Franklin Monroe will bounce back from the tough non-conference loss as it gets ready for a big stretch in Cross County Conference play, which is most important to the Jets.
“The thing for us right now that we’re very interested in is our conference,” he said. “Right now we’re 8-1, and they understand what’s at stake. We play a non-conference schedule like this for a reason. Regardless of what Marion’s record is, they’re a tough team, and it only made us better.”