MARION — For three periods, the gutsy Galion girls basketball squad played even with Marion Harding.
In the end, though, the Tigers just ran out of gas as Harding turned up its pressure defense and dropped a 62-40 decision to the Lady Presidents in Mid Ohio Athletic Conference action on Thursday night.
“I thought we did a nice job,” Galion head coach Shani Rush said. “Our defense, I thought we talked probably the best we have all year. And then we were sharing the ball on offense and we were running our offense — everything was working. But the fourth quarter came along and they turned it up and we didn’t turn it up to the same level they did. They got some offensive rebounds and we turned it over — that was the story of the fourth. But for the first three quarters, I’m really proud of my team; I thought they did a great job.”
Marion Harding (7-5, 5-3 MOAC) jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first period. However, Galion rallied behind senior Natalee Perkins, who scored eight points in the final four minutes of the opening quarter to help the Tigers pull to within four points, 12-8, by the end of the period.
The Lady Presidents again pulled away early in the second quarter, but Galion again rallied to keep the score close at the half, 25-19. Trailing 21-12 with 2:59 to play in the first half, Rush called a full timeout, which gave her Tigers a chance to rest and served as the springboard for their 7-4 run to close out the second quarter and cut the deficit to six points.
The third quarter was a replay of the first two with Marion Harding surging to a double-digit lead, 31-21, with just under six minutes to play thanks to a 6-2 burst. A three-point field goal by Harding’s Paige Powers gave the Lady Presidents a 34-23 cushion with just under four minutes remaining in the third period.
However, Galion (4-9, 0-6 MOAC) once again had an answer as senior Teanna Greter and junior Dezi Lester fueled a 12-1 Tigers run that evened the score at 35-all by the end of the third quarter. Greter tallied six points and Lester had four points — including the game-tying basket — during the Galion rally.
With his team leading 38-37, Marion Harding head coach Cory White called a timeout at the 6:28 mark of the fourth quarter. Out of the stoppage, the Lady Presidents stepped up their pressure defense, forcing six Galion turnovers and putting the game away by outscoring the Tigers 24-3 down the stretch to seal the win.
“Hats off to Galion. They played great,” White said. “They came out and they played great. Our girls were flat and extremely slow and lethargic tonight and we definitely have to fix that before Saturday. We have Shelby coming in here. We’ve got a lot to work on, a lot to fix.”
White said Marion Harding was experimenting with some different defensive looks in the first and third periods, but with the game on the line, he switched back to a man-to-man set and pressed the Tigers.
“In the fourth quarter, we went back to our man pressure that we’re pretty familiar with and pretty good at,” White said. “We still lost the ball on our help side, so we still have to clean up our shell defense. We went back to what we know and the girls decided to pick it up a little bit. They put the ball in the hoop and started rebounding again. We were getting a lot of one-and-done, but then we started rebounding well in the fourth quarter. We weren’t doing a lot of the little things right and those little things add up, especially when you’re playing a team like Galion who came out just left it all on the floor.”
Marion Harding senior Justice Steinman-Ross led all scorers with 30 points and also had 11 rebounds. Freshman Aniya Mitchell and junior Gracey Thompson added 10 points each. Thompson also had 10 rebounds. Mitchell recorded five steals.
The Lady Presidents finished with 35 total rebounds, including 16 offensive boards. Harding committed 17 turnovers.
Greter led Galion with 16 points. Perkins knocked three three-point field goals and finished with 13 points. Lester tallied eight points for the Tigers. Senior Emma Jutz had two points and freshman Cameron Eckert added one point for Galion.
Perkins led Galion with 15 rebounds. Eckert grabbed six rebounds. The Tigers collected 32 rebounds altogether. Galion committed 23 turnovers.
Tigers learning from adversity
With no junior varsity or freshman teams to draw from this season, many of the Galion varsity players have been forced to play a brand of “iron woman” basketball with few substitutions. Rush talked about what that experience has been like for her team this season.
“I think the kids have learned — especially the first five — they’ve got to toughen up,” Rush said. “It’s mental toughness. We don’t sub a lot so those five get tired and they’ve got to fight through it. That’s been the biggest challenge. But they’re doing a good job. They fight through it and we just keep going. They work hard. They show up to practice. And they still have a good attitude.”
Rush said she thinks the adversity her team has experienced and the toughness they’ve developed so far is preparing for them for the postseason.
“As long as they stay in it and keep their heads in it, I think they will do well,” Rush said. “We have some seniors on the team who don’t want their season to end. They’re going to do whatever they can to finish out their season the best they can.”
Next up on the schedule for Galion is a home date on Saturday against Clear Fork (12-2, 6-2 MOAC). The Lady Colts defeated River Valley 58-53 on Thursday, avenging a home loss to the Vikings on Dec. 2.
The Tigers will play host to Pleasant on Tuesday before traveling to Shelby next Friday.
Marion Harding is scheduled to play host to undefeated Shelby (13-0, 7-0 MOAC) on Saturday.