MARION — He slipped. You know, just to make the level of difficulty a little bit higher.
A lot higher, actually. Not that it ended up mattering to Gage Franck and this group of magical Marion Indians.
“All I knew was with six seconds left, I was going to try and shake my guy and pull up on him,” Franck said, after his buzzer-beating, turnaround jumper gave his Class 3A second-ranked team team a 65-63 overtime win Monday night over DeWitt Central. “I knew I had to get it up there. It just went in.”
Marion called timeout with 15.1 seconds left and set up a play for Franck, who’d been bedeviled most of the game by foul trouble. He dribbled out toward the half-court line until the eight-second mark, penetrated to just outside the free-throw line, slipped to his knees but somehow managed to keep dribbling with his back to his defender.
With no time left for anything else, he turned, fired ... boom. What a great comeback win for the Indians (13-1, 11-1 Wamac East), who were 14 points down in the third quarter and got a Jaffer Murphy layup with .04 seconds left in regulation to send this thriller to OT.
Murphy’s 3-pointer at the buzzer gave Marion a win two weeks ago at Dyersville Beckman. An overtime win against Solon also has been part of the season thus far.
These guys just clutch up.
“They believe in what we are doing as a team, believe in what we are doing on the court,” said Marion Coach Pete Messerli. “You keep fighting. It might not look pretty all the time, but you keep fighting ... We’ve beaten some really good teams because we have played a full game. Obviously tonight was a full game and then some. Their belief and focus down the stretch was huge.”
Messerli said it was assistant coach Kyle VonBehren who drew up both the end-of-regulation and end-of-OT plays. Alex McAleer made two free throws with 4.1 seconds left to give DeWitt Central (10-3, 9-3) a 59-57 lead in regulation.
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With the ball underneath his basket after a timeout, Franck threw a bullet inbounds pass to midcourt to teammate Connor Whalen, who caught it and hit a wide-open Murphy for the tying two. Murphy began the play to the left of Whalen at midcourt and cut down the floor after Whalen’s catch.
So beautifully executed. As was Franck’s winner ... sort of.
“Definitely give Coach VonBehren credit for drawing up both plays. Those are all him,” Messerli said. “The guys have to execute them, believe in them and stay disciplined, make plays. It is awesome to see them come through in the clutch. That’d be an understatement.”
Forward Tucker Kinney had a game-high 25 points for DeWitt Central, though only four in the second half. Will Henricksen had 19 for Marion, with Franck and freshman point guard Brayson Laube adding 14 each.
DEWITT CENTRAL (63): Alex McAleer 3-8 3-4 9, Tucker Kinney 10-21 2-4 25, Logan Paulsen 4-5 3-3 11, Zach Hinkle 0-4 0-0 0, Henry Bloom 6-9 3-4 15, Ethan Pierce 0-0 0-0 0, Kaiden Muhl 0-0 2-2 2, John McCohony 0-0 1-2 1, Ben Mason 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-48 14-19 63.
MARION (65): Gage Franck 5-10 3-4 14, Connor Whalen 4-8 4-9 12, Will Henricksen 5-12 7-9 19, Jaffer Murphy 2-9 0-0 4, Brayson Laube 4-8 2-2 14, Lucas Unsen 0-3 0-0 0, Cael Hodges 1-2 0-0 2, Garret Wagner 0-1 0-0 0, Ryan Paulsen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-53 16-24 65.
Halftime — DeWitt Central 32, Marion 26. End of Regulation — DeWitt Central 59, Marion 59. 3-point goals — DeWitt Central 3-14 (McAleer 0-2, Kinney 3-7, Hinkle 0-2, Bloom 0-2, Mason 0-1), Marion 7-24 (Franck 1-4, Henricksen 2-7, Murphy 0-4, Laube 4-8, Unsen 0-1). Rebounds — DeWitt Central 32 (Kinney 15), Marion 30 (Murphy 9). Total fouls — DeWitt Central 20, Marion 16. Fouled out — None. Turnovers — DeWitt Central 16, Marion 11.
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