MARENGO – When Marengo’s Jesse Darlington caught the pass beyond the 3-point arc and began to shoot, the Indians’ bench stood up along with most of the fans occupying the bleachers.
After two missed 3-point tries on the two previous possessions, the crowd and players had something to cheer about this time as Darlington’s shot fell through the net with 58.9 seconds to play to give the Indians (5-8) their first lead of the game, by two. The Indians won, 64-63, after trailing by 15 points after the third quarter.
“The play was a pick-and-roll and they just found me,” Darlington said after Marengo beat Woodstock North in the third-place game at the E.C. Nichols Tournament. “It felt pretty amazing when it went in.”
The win was an improbable one. The Thunder (6-8) started fast, opening on a 13-2 run. The defense was full of energy, forcing three turnovers and two missed shots on Marengo’s first five possessions.
North’s Steven Whiting carved up the Indians’ defense with slick drives for eight first-quarter points.
The Thunder kept up the intensity for three quarters. But the Thunder’s play in the fourth looked nothing like the dominant team it was earlier in the game.
“We were outplayed,” North coach Steve Ryan said. “Marengo put everything out there and played as if they wanted to win – we didn’t. We ended this tournament with a winning record and I thought we had taken steps forward throughout, but tonight we took a big step backwards.”
The downfall for the Thunder and the comeback rested on Andrew Volkening, Marengo’s 6-foot-6 center.
Volkening scored 11 points in the fourth as the Indians fed him the ball underneath the hoop nearly every possession. The junior drew four fouls in the quarter, three of which gave him an opportunity for a three-point play.
“We’ve been waiting for a win like this,” Volkening said. “We are starting to believe in ourselves and with the guys we have, if we can play like we did in the fourth quarter for an entire game no one will be able to beat us.”
Indians coach Dave Pettit was all smiles after the game but said he needs to find a way to get that fourth quarter performance out of his players for a full game. Part of the reason, Pettit explained, is the Indians have only one senior who gets significant playing time.
“I told my guys that we needed to come out and play 32 good minutes,” Pettit said. “But all I got was eight. I need to find a way to jump-start these guys. We’ve had a tough schedule so far so that plays a factor and I hope that this tournament finish will be a start for something good for us and a game to remember when we get ready for the conference tournament.”