Notwithstanding their tooth-and-nail battle to the final buzzer on Monday night, the Marceline girls' season came to a close on Monday night. The Lady Tigers' basketball team fell 63-60 versus Princeton's Tigers in blue in Schuyler County's Class 2 District 6.
Sixth-seeded Princeton upset third-seeded Marceline, although the blue Tigers had a better record than the team that appeared as home on the scoreboard.
"Our defense didn't show up well tonight, and that's why they scored 63 points," Marceline coach Jordan Beck admitted. "We watched film on them and knew what they could do, but we didn't execute on the defensive end. We had to get stops and finish, and everything that Princeton threw up, it seemed like it went in. We didn't knock down some shots when we needed to.
"Our senior group will definitely be missed next year, and I want to thank them for a good season. They'll be tough shoes to fill, but it can be done."
Although it never got behind more than six points, Marceline trailed throughout the first quarter, and took a 33-30 lead into the halftime break.
To begin the second half, Marceline scored the first four points when junior Kenzie Stahl took total control of the game. She recorded two steals and two layups in the first four combined possessions, and the 34-33 lead required a discombobulated Princeton to burn a timeout.
The blue Tigers regained their composure, and went on an 8-2 run over the next four minutes.
The game was deadlocked at 43-apiece at the end of the third.
Marceline took a four-point lead to begin the final period, and Princeton was forced to call another timeout to stop the bleeding. Princeton shortly rallied back to tie the game at 51-51, and on the next possession, a nine-foot jumper from senior Jaylea Bixenman gave Marceline its final lead of the game with four minutes remaining.
Nearly two minutes later, Stahl brought her team back to 57-56 with a three-pointer before Marceline coach Jordan Beck called a timeout.
With exactly a minute remaining and Marceline trailing by three, a wild series of events unfolded.
Princeton turned the ball over, followed by a Marceline travel in the front court, followed by Princeton missing the front end of a one-and-one, followed by Marceline losing the ball out of bounds after a wild scrap.
Off of the Princeton inbound, with 15 seconds remaining, Baylee Jobson was forced to foul in a double-bonus situation for Princeton. The six-seed Tigers went 1-of-2 from the line.
Stahl then made a layup to cut the deficit to 62-60 before Marceline had to foul with 4.3 seconds remaining. Princeton again went 1-of-2 on that trip.
The Tigers, out of timeouts, had to heave up a last-ditch effort. Senior Maycee Edgar's three-quarter court heave came up short.
"We tried to keep each other in the game and not get our heads down," Bixenman said following her final career basketball game. "It's hard not being emotional when you get down, but we dug ourselves out multiple times. I'm proud of everybody. Their shots were falling, and that was our biggest concern.
"This was definitely the most exciting year I've ever played of basketball. This team has the most bonds that I've ever been on. As far as record, it didn't show as much as we would've liked in the offseason, but we improved."
Marceline loses Bixenman, Edgar, Renee Sinclair, and Becka Gouge entering next season.
Stahl finished with a team-high 17 points. Sinclair's work on the low block earned her 16 points. Edgar finished with 14, and freshman Ramzee Bruner and Bixenman both posted four.
Princeton's Jaelyn Steeby-Thomas led her team with 20 points.
The Marceline Tigers finish the season 13-10, while Princeton survives to face Knox County at 14-8.
"We knew they were very athletic and they shot the three very well, but they surprised us by attacking down low, and they were stronger and got some backdoor cuts," Princeton coach Bill Goodin said. "Frankly, there were times I thought they were more athletic than we were. We were able to hit some shots and be patient on offense, and we didn't turn the ball over too many times. They're one of the better ball clubs we've faced, and this is the best ballgame we've played this year as far as I'm concerned."