CEDAR RAPIDS — You could sit here and write word after word after word after word on the opener of Monday night’s Class 3A substate final doubleheader at the U.S. Cellular Center.
You could write a book, multiple books. But Marion boys’ basketball coach Pete Messerli summed it up in one succinct sentence postgame.
“You never want to be on the side we were on tonight in an instant classic,” Messerli said.
And you always want to be on the side Center Point-Urbana was on.
The Stormin’ Pointers out and out survived a 78-70 triple-overtime game that was, as Messerli said, an instant classic. A display of shear guts from both teams, so many kids.
“That’s a good question,” Center Point-Urbana’s Caleb Andrews said, when asked to describe what it felt like as a player to go through that war. “This was crazy. A great atmosphere, a big arena ... Marion’s a tough team. When you have two teams running around like that, there’s not a single player on that floor that didn’t play 100 percent. I’m just proud of our guys.”
Center Point-Urbana (18-6) qualified for the state tournament for just the second time, the other being 1996. Marion (19-5) was denied a state tournament three-peat.
“A lot of guys stepping up in key situations,” said CPU Coach Mike Halac. “That was fun. Free basketball. That’s what we talked about, playing 32 great minutes at The Cell. We got a lot more. We had a great opportunity tonight to play a lot of basketball. Our guys were excited. I guarantee you they would have played four more quarters if they would have had to.”
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Marion trailed the entire game, from 2-0 on, but rallied (as it did in its substate semifinal win over Waverly-Shell Rock) in the fourth quarter and was a fortunate (or unfortunate) rim roll from winning. Down two, 49-47, with 6.6 seconds left, the Indians’ Gage Franck took an inbounds pass from underneath his basket after a timeout, drove the court, pulled up at about the free-throw line and hit an open Lucas Unsen underneath the hoop.
Unsen laid it in at the buzzer and was fouled. The officials put .4 of a second on the clock, and CPU called timeout to freeze him.
Unsen’s free-throw attempt to win bounced off the rim, off the backboard, back off the rim, rolled around the front edge and ... fell out. Overtime.
“How that didn’t go in, I don’t know,” Messerli said. “But there were a lot of plays in that game that mattered, not just one.”
The teams were tied at 56 through the first overtime, at 63 through two. Marion simply ran out of bodies in the third OT, with all five starters ending up fouling out.
“That game was so long,” said CPU’s Kole Tupa. “But it was so short at the same time.”
Tupa led everyone with 22 points. Andrews added 16, Alex Wade 12 and Trey Johannes 11.
Will Henricksen had 21 for Marion, with Connor Whalen adding 19 and Brayson Laube 16.
“We could have folded,” Messerli said. “But our team always had a belief, just as it has all season. We’ve been down in a lot of games, and they keep their composure.”
“We knew we’d knock some free throws eventually,” Tupa said. “We missed a couple, but, in the end, getting the W was all that matters, and that’s what we got.”
AT CEDAR RAPIDS
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CENTER POINT-URBANA (78): Kole Tupa 8-14 5-9 22, Caleb Andrews 4-9 6-8 16, Keegan Koppedryer 1-4 3-4 6, Alex Wade 4-8 4-9 12, Reece Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Ethan Sells 0-6 5-8 5, Trey Johannes 4-5 2-2 11, Grant Bryant 2-4 1-2 6. Totals 23-51 26-42 78.
MARION (70): Connor Whalen 7-10 5-9 19, Gage Franck 1-10 0-0 2, Will Henricksen 7-22 4-7 21, Jaffer Murphy 1-8 0-0 3, Brayson Laube 4-8 4-4 16, Lucas Unsen 1-3 0-2 2, Garret Wagner 0-1 0-0 0, Cael Hodges 0-2 2-2 2, Ryan Paulsen 2-4 0-0 5, Sam Finley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-68 15-24 70.
Halftime — Center Point-Urbana 27, Marion 23. End of Regulation — 49-49. End of First Overtime — 56-56. End of Second Overtime — 63-63. 3-point goals — Center Point-Urbana 6-20 (Tupa 1-3, Andrews 2-5, Koppedryer 1-3, Wade 0-1, Miller 0-1, Sells 0-3, Johannes 1-2, Bryant 1-2), Marion 9-38 (Whalen 0-1, Franck 0-5, Henricksen 2-16, Murphy 1-4, Laube 4-8, Hodges 0-2, Paulsen 1-1). Rebounds — Center Point-Urbana 47 (Tupa 15), Marion 39 (Whalen 8). Total fouls — Center Point-Urbana 22, Marion 36. Fouled out — Whalen, Murphy, Henricksen, Laube, Franck. Turnovers — Center Point-Urbana 11, Marion 13.
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