Although the Marceline boys' basketball team hung with Princeton for the better part of four quarters on Monday, its season came to a close with a lopsided loss.
The seven-seed Tigers fell 53-38 despite taking a lead as late as the third quarter and never trailing by more than five until the fourth.
The Class 2 District 6 tournament was again held at Schuyler County.
"Our guys battled, and when (Princeton) brought more pressure, we fell into that a little bit," Marceline coach Jordan Aulbur said. "I'm proud of these guys for our hard work every night, especially on the defensive side of the ball. That was a team that wants to get out and go, but we were able to settle in and force them into running a half-court offense. We helped ourselves on the defensive side on the ball, but tonight, shots didn't fall.
"This season, we've developed extremely well every game. We have most of our guys coming back, and they'll have that much more experience. We have to keep on it."
In the first period, Marceline's high-energy defensive zone forced Princeton into a tense offense, and the underdog Tigers trailed 6-5 at the end of the quarter.
The two Tiger teams built some momentum in the second, and Princeton had a 22-18 lead entering the halftime break.
Marceline took the lead twice in the third quarter, once at 27-26 and again at 30-29. From that point onward, Princeton hit shots the black and gold Tigers missed and grabbed offensive boards Marceline could not.
Princeton went on a 10-2 run to begin the fourth quarter, and with Princeton grasping a 13-point lead with four minutes remaining, the game was effectively over. Marceline clanked both of its two attempted three-pointers in the crepuscular minutes.
Luke Abeln led Marceline with 11 points. Desmond Fessler ended his laudable career with nine points, and Will Heller also had nine. Freshman Wyatt Molloy finished with seven points.
Marceline officially finishes its season 4-15, although this publication has argued that its record should be 5-15 with a win versus a junior varsity team in a tournament earlier this year. Princeton faces Scotland County in the district semifinals on Thursday.
"Our defensive intensity was poor early on," Princeton coach Damon Collins said. "We didn't react well to penetration, and we didn't react well when people picked the ball up. It was kind of a setback, and to their credit, they forced us into being complacent through all of that. We went back to what we were good at, and that's us playing hard-nosed defense and getting some rebounds. Overall, I'm happy with our side, but that Marceline side gave us a lot of trouble."