Tigers prevail: MHS claims sectional crown with win vs. Warren

POMEROY – In typical Marietta/Warren fashion, the sectional final game between the Lady Tigers and Lady Warriors at Meigs High School Thursday evening was an absolute thriller.

After splitting the series in the regular season, round three went to the Tigers as Marietta claimed a 52-47 victory to advance to the district semifinals against either Miami Trace or Hillsboro.

“It’s just huge,” said Marietta head coach Scott Cozzens. “All the stuff we went through this year, the brutal schedule and all that stuff. I told the kids before the game ‘The tournament is a reward. It could end tonight. It could end in Columbus.’ We have a team that if we play well and do the things we need to do, we can win a lot of games.”

Marietta trailed by as many as eight late in the third quarter and five midway through the fourth quarter, but was able to rally down the stretch to pick up the W.

In the third period, a basket by Warren’s Mackenzie Ullman put the Warriors up 34-26. Marietta responded with a jumper from Kristen Hill and a layup by Taylor Smith at the buzzer to cut it to 34-30 going into the final eight minutes.

After Hill and Warren’s Jordanna Rauch traded a free throw, Smith converted a three-point play to bring Marietta within a point at 35-34. Warren responded with a pair of foul shots from Ullman and Victoria Buzzard to make it a five-point game.

Marietta made it 39-36 when Erica Dawson found Starr Johnson underneath the basket for a layup, and then a 3-pointer by Luisa Barton tied things up. The Tigers would not trail again the rest of the contest.

A free throw by Smith gave Marietta the lead, and then a steal by Dawson led to a layup-and-one to make it a two possession game at 43-39.

After a layup by Johnson made it 45-39, Warren called a timeout with 2:30 left to play. The Warriors responded well to the break, as Rauch promptly hit a 3-pointer followed by an old fashioned three-point play from Buzzard to tie the game at 45-45. Marietta then called a timeout of its own with 1:29 remaining.

Dawson was fouled on a drive to the basket and sank both free throws to put Marietta up 47-45. Later, after Warren missed an attempt to tie the game, Dawson was fouled again and made the pair to make the score 49-45.

Warren was not done yet, as Amy Fleming drew a foul and connected on both freebies to make it a one possession game with 18 seconds left.

Marietta’s Kaitlyn Cozzens then drew a foul a made one of two to make it 50-47 with 13 seconds left.

With Warren looking to tie it up, Marietta’s Lexi Walsh came up with a crucial steal. Walsh was quickly fouled and made both free throws to ice the game for Marietta.

Overall in the contest, Marietta shot 17-for-43 (40 percent) from the floor while Warren was 10-for-39 (26 percent). Amy Colgrove-coached Warren outrebounded Marietta 32-27, led by Emma Ryan’s 14 boards, but Marietta held the edge in turnovers, coughing it up 18 times compared to Warren’s 22.

Buzzard led all scorers with 20 points in the contest. Marietta was led by Erica Dawson’s 17 points. The only other player in the game to reach double figures was Smith, who had 10.

“I had a shorter girl on me and I just went down there and posted up,” Smith said. “My coach always tells me I can do that stuff, so I just went down there and tried my best.”

“I thought Taylor Smith did an excellent job handling their pressure and taking the ball to the hole and creating foul trouble for them,” Cozzens said.

Early in the game, it looked as though Marietta might run away with it. After Dawson and Rauch traded 3s to open it up, Walsh hit a 3-pointer followed by five straight points from Dawson to make it 11-3. Those would be Dawson’s only points until she made pair of free throws in the third quarter. The Xavier-bound Dawson attempted only 16 shots in the contest after shooting 33 times in a 44-37 loss to Warren earlier in the season.

“(Warren’s) defense had a lot to do with it,” Dawson said. “I knew I would have a lot more focus and attention on me. Basically when they jumped at me the plan was to get the ball to the open girls underneath. It ended up working out well for us.”

“Erica has learned coming back (from injury) not to force shots,” Cozzens said. “Earlier in the year she would just go ahead and try to get her shots. She believes in her teammates now because she’s seen time after time her teammates come through.”

With the Tigers up 11-3 in the first, Rauch hit a pair of free throws followed by a 3-ball and a free throw from Buzzard to cut it to 11-9. A jumper by Hill made it 13-9 at the end of the first.

Buzzard scored the first five points of the second quarter to give Warren its first lead of the game at 14-13. Cozzens quickly responded with a 3-pointer on an assist from Smith, and then Johnson hit a jumper to put the Tigers on top 18-14. Buzzard and Ryan would each hit a pair from the charity stripe to tie it up at 18-all to close the half.

Ullman came out of halftime and hit a jumper, and then later a basket by Ryan made it 24-20. Marietta’s Haley Bonar put in a layup on an assist from Cozzens to cut it to 24-22. A bucket by Ryan and foul shots from Josey Riffle put warren up 28-22. Later, a Smith layup would bring Marietta to within four, but a layup by Riffle and a jumper by Ullman made it 34-26.

The win improved Marietta’s record to 14-9 on the season while Warren fell to 13-9.

“(Warren head coach) Amy (Colgrove) does a very good job,” Cozzens said. “They’re a very good team.

“It’s a shame this had to happen,” Cozzens continued. “That’s a regional quality team we just beat.”

Marietta will now face either Miami Trace or Hillsboro in a district semifinal game Thursday (Feb. 21) at Southeastern High School. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:15 p.m.

“This is a great win for us,” Dawson said. “A great confidence boost. Hopefully it will help us carry on through the rest of the tournament.”