Sports Talk: A hoops game for the ages

Early in the second half, Heidelberg University had Marietta College down for the count.

Then, late during regulation time, the Pioneers had the Student Princes all but beat.

Perhaps fittingly, two overtime sessions were played.

In all, there were 15 lead changes and eight ties.

It simply was one of the greatest men’s basketball games ever played at Ban Johnson Arena.

At the end of the second OT, Marietta prevailed 92-89 to the delight of the partisan crowd, and Heidelberg had a lot of time to think about what had just happened on its 4-hour bus ride back to Tiffin.

“That game was probably one for the ages, I think” said Marietta head coach Jon VanderWal. “Our kids made a ton of plays, and their kids made a ton of plays. We just got lucky enough to make enough for us in the end.”

Indeed.

Thing is, Heidelberg got off to a good start, and led 39-27 at the half. Marietta, on the other hand, was simply in a word…awful, during the first 20 minutes of court action.

“We probably played as bad of a first half that we could possibly play,” VanderWal said. “At halftime, I got after them a little bit to be honest with you.

“We just tried to re-focus them.”

Fortunately for the Pioneers, they had a whole half to catch up.

At the start of the second half, Jacob Owens hit MC’s first three of the game. But then all of a sudden, Heidelberg has a run, and is now leading by 17 points, 47-30.

“We didn’t start the second half particularly well,” VanderWal said.

But after MC went down 17, it finally dawned on the Pioneers that if they didn’t get their act together real quick, this game was going to end up as a loss.

“It looked like we were dead,” VanderWal said. “But then I think when it got up to 17, our kids finally started making some plays – and we’re a dangerous ballclub when we start making plays.”

With people like Tyler Worstell, Garrett Stephenson, J.J. Martin, and Tyler Hammond making the majority of the big plays in the second half, Marietta slowly but surely whittled away at the deficit, and finally caught and surpassed Heidelberg. With 26 seconds left in regulation, the Pioneers had a six-point lead and appeared to be on the verge of a come-from-behind victory.

But wait a doggone minute. During the time remaining, it was the Student Princes turn to rally, and they did so when Mike Petrie hit two, long three-bombs to tie the game and send it into overtime.

Just who was this Petrie guy? Going into the game, he was averaging five points a contest.

“Petrie, he wasn’t a guy we were focused on all week,” VanderWal said. “I guess we should have been. He shot it really well today. He played great.”

Great, like in finishing with a game-high 26 points on eight of 11 from 3-point range.

Late in the first overtime, Marietta was one missed shot from being defeated. But coming to the rescue was Worstell, who drained a clutch three with 10 seconds remaining to send it into a second OT.

In what turned out to be the final extra session, It was Hammond’s time to shine as the junior point scored his team’s last seven points to secure a hard-fought Pioneer triumph.

“I feel like we took Heidelberg’s best shot,” VanderWal said.

In a game for the ages.

Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com