North Marion boys fall 58-57 to No. 7 Henley in play-in round
Like so many of North Marion's games this season, the result of the Huskies' play-in game at No. 7 Henley came down to the final possession. And like so many games before, the Huskies walked off the court on the opposite side of a close loss, falling to the Hornets 58-57 to finish the season.
North Marion's final game came at the end of a difficult month of basketball in which the team lost eight of its last nine, nearly all of which was decided in the last few seconds of action. But after squeezing into the play-in round, the Huskies gave themselves a chance at redemption against a Henley team that ousted them from the playoffs last year.
"Most people wrote us off going down to Henley, but we thought we could win and we almost proved ourselves right," head coach Tully Wagner said. "Kind of a rough second half of the season, but I really like the guys I got and I'm proud of them."
The Huskies rallied from a seven-point deficit in the first quarter of Friday's game at Henley, ultimately taking the lead in the third quarter and maintaining their slight advantage until the final minute of the game.
The two teams traded leads in the final moments before North Marion was forced to go the length of the floor in under four seconds to attempt a game-winning shot. The Huskies were able to advance the ball up to sophomore Sergio Jimenez for a 3-pointer as time expired, but the shot hit the rim and bounced away.
"It was a decent look from NBA range, which is always difficult," Wagner said. "It just bounced off, and that was that, we lost another close one."
Close losses have been the story of North Marion's season since the Huskies opened league play in mid-January. Since the team opened 2-0 against conference opponents, North Marion went on to lose seven of its last eight to finish fifth in the final standings.
Including Friday's loss to Henley, all but one of those losses were by single digits, and five were games in which the Huskies held a lead with under 10 seconds left.
"It's one thing to know that the teams that are beating you are infinitely better than you, and know you can play a good game and lose," Wagner said. "But it's another thing to think that you can beat those teams and be so close multiple times and not be able to get over the top."
For a team that was at one point ranked among the top 10 teams in the state with aspirations for a league title at the end of the season, it forced the Huskies to adjust their outlook on the fly and find another reason to keep playing.
As the losses mounted, the team's spirit never waned, right down to the very last possession against Henley.
"Multiple times this season they could have packed it in and said this isn't our year," Wagner said. "We have talked multiple times about character and when you are facing adversity, that's when your true character shows. I'm happy that my guys were able to show character and battle every last game."