Despite a valiant charge on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, the Marceline girls' basketball team will not be advancing to play in a sectional game in Mexico.
The Tigers upset top-seeded Salisbury on Friday evening to earn a berth into Schuyler County's district championship, but were unable to overcome an early deficit against Northeast (Cairo) the next day.
"Their zone forced our guards to hit shots, and when they're not falling, you're in for a long night," Salisbury coach Dane Brooks said after falling to the Tigers. "It took the wind out of our sails, and we couldn't climb our way out of a hole."
Friday's game was a wild ride in an eventual 41-34 Marceline victory. The Tigers finished the first half with an 8-1 run to return to the locker room trailing 20-17.
From that point onward, neither team led by more than four until Marceline held Salisbury scoreless for the final two minutes of the game and knocked down some free throws to ice it.
"We went into practice and every girl had to make 50 free throws," Marceline coach Jordan Beck said. "I knew those would be crucial this time of year, and it paid off."
Marceline has had its fair share of struggles from the line this season, but made foul shots when it needed them most. The Tigers shot 7-of-8 from the line in the fourth quarter and 16-of-19 overall.
The Tigers held Salisbury scoreless for over four minutes spanning the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third. In the final two periods of play, there were five lead changes and two stretches in which the game was tied.
On Friday night, Marceline's Kenzie Stahl led her team with 13 points. Baylee Jobson finished with 10 and Becka Gouge posted seven.
In the semifinal game, the Tigers did an effective job of mitigating their notable size discrepancy, and held dynamic Salisbury forward Bryn Wooldridge to a dozen points -- a victory for the Marceline defense according to Beck.
"We knew who the ball was going to go to. We doubled down on (Wooldridge), and I told the girls she was going to have 10 or 12, but if we hold her to that we have the advantage," Beck said. "We played their game the first quarter, and our girls did a tremendous job coming out of the halftime break. We knew what we had to do on the defensive end. Salisbury didn't get back in transition very well."
The next afternoon, the Tigers had a characteristic slow start, but this time were unable to overcome the deficit. After trailing 21-11 to second-seeded Northeast, Marceline finished the half with a 9-2 run that included a pair of Maycee Edgar three-pointers and nearly a five-minute scoring drought for the Bearcats.
The Tigers trailed by three points at the intermission, 23-20, and were never able to cut the margin any slimmer than that in a 51-39 loss.
Jobson recorded her fourth foul less than three minutes into the third quarter when she picked up a personal then a frustration technical. Her being out for nearly half of the game limited the Tigers on both sides of the floor.
Northeast guard Mackenzie Dubbert shredded the Tigers all day, finishing with 28 points including five three-pointers. Edgar was the only Tiger in double-figures in scoring with 10.
"I told the girls that if they went on a run, we'd have to contain them and answer back," Beck said. "We didn't hold (Dubbert) like we needed to, we couldn't contain her, and that was a big difference in the game. They were more guard-heavy than Salisbury was, and they had more weapons than us tonight."
Marceline finishes its season at the .500 mark at 14-14. The Tigers will return seven core players next season.