St. John’s Taylor Zuber (14) picks up Marion Local’s Emily Nietfeld near mid-court during Thursday night’s MAC girls basketball clash inside The Hangar of Marion Local High School. (DHI Media/Jim Metcalfe)
St. John’s Taylor Zuber (14) picks up Marion Local’s Emily Nietfeld near mid-court during Thursday night’s MAC girls basketball clash inside The Hangar of Marion Local High School. (DHI Media/Jim Metcalfe)

MARIA STEIN — Facing a size mismatch throughout the lineup, the St. John’s girls basketball team had a tough road to hoe as they faced off against Marion Local Thursday night inside “The Hangar.”

The Lady Blue Jays took the lead late in the second period on a 7-0 run and made it count at the end as two foul shots by Taylor Zuber with 27.3 seconds left accounted for their 40-37 Midwest Athletic Conference conquest.

Though the Lady Flyers easily won the battle of the backboards 43-24 (21-5 offensive), they could only manage 14-of-52 shooting (26.9%).

Marion led 11-9 at the end of one in what would be a defensive battle all night long. St. John’s (9-11, 2-6 MAC) Paige Gaynier and Marion’s Heidi Rethman traded opening baskets in the second stanza and Gaynier added another deuce to tie it at 13. Hannah Bockey’s triple gave the guests the lead and after Rethman tied it at 16 on a putback 2:35, Hannah Will exploded for a personal 7-0 Blue Jay run — 3s from right of the key (2:17) and the right wing (1:40) and a foul shot at 1:12 — for a 23-16 edge. A putback by the 5-11 Alana Pohlman at 10 seconds made the halftime score 23-18, Jays.

Emily Nietfeld and Pohlman hit back-to-back baskets to start the third canto to get the Lady Flyers within 23-22 before Halle Hays answered at 5:45 for the Jays. The Jays — make that the freshman Gaynier — then steadily outscored their foe 9-4 the rest of the period and it was her 3-ball from the left wing two seconds before the horn that put them up 34-27.

A deuce by Marion Local’s 6-1 Kara Evers (6:14) and two Gaynier singles (5:03) made it 36-29, Jays, and later, a pair of Will freebies at 3:23 put the visitors up 38-30. The home team then scored seven in a row — capped by a layin by Rethman at 51 seconds — to make it a 38-37 deficit. The Jays ran 24 seconds off the clock before the junior Zuber — who had struggled with foul issues during the game — was fouled and she calmly drained both ends of the 1-and-1 at 27.3 seconds for that 3-point lead. After a Marion timeout, they had two 3-pointers for the tie but both were awry as the Jays escaped.

The Jays used several defenses — sagging man-to-man, 1-3-1 half-court, 1-3-1 3/4-court — to try and neutralize the size of the Flyers and it seemed to do the trick, even as the Flyers built up an 11-6 edge in the first period on a basket by the 5-10 Brooke Homan at 1:30. A trifecta from the left corner by Hannah Bockey with 10 seconds showing got the visitors within 11-9.

“I’m so proud of the efforts of the girls tonight. We were diving on the floor tonight for loose balls; that preserved the possessions several times for us,” St. John’s head coach Nate Stant observed. “We were giving away size at almost every spot and I give credit to those like Abby (Bonifas) — giving away about 5 inches — for battling all night. They did miss some shots but we got a lot of big rebounds when we needed them. Their guards were physical but Paige stepped up to the challenge; at times, we have to spread the floor and trust in her ability. Our two seniors, Ellie and Hannah, know it’s getting close to the end of the regular season and they are giving it everything to lead this team.”

In junior varsity activity, Aubrie Friemoth’s 14 (4 bombs) and 10 by Erika Moenter gave the Jays a 34-26 triumph.

Grace Knapke counted 10 for Marion.

The Jays pay a visit to State Route 66 rival Ottoville for a Saturday night affair, beginning with the JV game at 6 p.m.

Marion Local heads to Fort Loramie Tuesday.

VARSITY

ST. JOHN’S (40)

Taylor Zuber 1-3 2-2 4, Hannah Will 2-7 3-4 9, Halle Hays 1-4 0-0 2, Paige Gaynier 6-11 2-2 15, Ellie Csukker 1-6 1-2 4, Aubrie Friemoth 0-0 0-0 0, Abby Bonifas 0-1 0-0 0, Hannah Bockey 2-8 0-0 6. Totals 13-40 8-10 40.

MARION LOCAL (37)

Kelsey Koenig 0-3 0-0 0, Heidi Rethman 5-15 4-8 14, Kara Evers 3-9 1-3 7, Emily Nietfeld 1-5 0-0 2, Brooke Homan 1-6 3-3 5, Morgan Heckman 0-1 0-0 0, Alana Pohlman 4-13 1-2 9. Totals 14-52 9-17 37

Score by Quarters:

St. John’s 9 14 11 6 - 40

Marion Local 11 7 9 10 - 37

Total Field Goal Percentage: St. John’s 32.5, Marion Local 26.9. Free Throw Percentage: St. John’s 80, Marion Local 52.9. Three-Point Field Goals/Percentage: St. John’s 6-19/31.6 (Will 2, Bockey 2, Gaynier, Csukker), Marion Local 0-6/0. Rebounds: St. John’s 24/5 off. (Bonifas 6), Marion Local 43/21 off. (Pohlman 10). Assists: St. John’s 7 (Bonifas 3), Marion Local 5 (Pohlman 3). Steals: St. John’s 5 (Will 2), Marion Local 7 (Koenig/Nietfeld 3). Blocks: St. John’s 3 (Gaynier/Csukker/Bonifas 1), Marion Local 4 (Evers/Pohlman 2). Fouls: St. John’s 14, Marion Local 16. Turnovers: St. John’s 13, Marion Local 13.

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JUNIOR VARSITY

ST. JOHN’S (34)

Abby Hensley 0-3-3, Erika Moenter 2-6-10, Abby Buettner 2-0-4, Elly Wrasman 1-0-3, Brianna Altenburger 0-0-0, Faith Ezzelle 0-0-0, Aubrie Friemoth 5-0-15, Riley Pohlman 0-0-0. Totals 5-5-9/10-34.

MARION LOCAL (26)

Ava Rose 1-0-2, Hailey Wilker 1-0-2, Sam Pierron 1-0-2, Molly Rethman 1-0-2, GRace Knapke 5-0-10, Abby Moorman 0-0-0, Katelyn Hartings 0-0-0, Lauren Wolters 4-0-8. Totals 13-0-0/9-26

Score by Quarters:

St. John’s 1 15 2 16 - 34

Marion Local 4 8 8 6 - 26

Three-point goals: St. John’s, Friemoth 4, Wrasman; Marion Local, none.