OSSIAN — Columbia City’s girls basketball team came away with a 52-32 win in round one of sectional action at Norwell on Friday, but fell to a tall, athletic Marion squad in the sectional semifinal, 59-44.
Marion was on a 10-game win streak leading up to its sectional game against Columbia City, and boasts an impressive roster of multiple players over 6 feet tall.
Though the Eagles downed Marion in their regular-season matchup, 54-37, on Nov. 16, the Giants came out ready to seek revenge on Columbia City.
“Marion came with more intensity than the first time we played them,” Shearer said. “They don’t normally play with that sort of fire. They knew they were going to have to bring their A game to beat us. I give credit to them, they came and played hard.”
That fire was difficult to compete with, and after a 17-17 first-quarter dogfight, Columbia City’s offense couldn’t score in the second. Marion’s long, athletic forwards plugged up the inside, making it difficult for the Eagles to find their groove.
“Size-wise, we were at a major disadvantage,” Shearer said. “It’s hard to simulate 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-3 in practice. It does make people alter their shots and speed things up when we don’t need to. If we played against that everyday, it would be second nature, but you don’t see size like that, even in the Fort Wayne area.”
Marion’s zone defense, though spread out, could quickly collapse and block shots.
“Their wingspan … they’re so long and it’s difficult to get shots off,” Shearer said. “It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact. We were not as big and as long as they are. We did everything we could to overcome that, but unfortunately we fell short.”
Marion ran ahead to a 27-17 halftime advantage.
The Eagles outscored Marion 12-9 in the third quarter to make up for some of the deficit, trailing 36-29 going into the final quarter.
However, Marion scored 23 points to Columbia City’s 15 in the fourth to end the game at 59-44.
“They fought and clawed and scratched and gave every bit of energy they had to try to do what we could,” Shearer said. “That’s a mainstay in Columbia City Lady Eagle basketball — you don’t quit playing until the final horn. No matter what the score is, you’re always playing hard.”
Despite the height discrepancy, Columbia City out-rebounded Marion 33-30, and only gave up 11 turnovers in the fast-paced game.
“I’m very proud of the kids for out rebounding them with the size differential,” Shearer said.
Mabie led the team in points with 15, including three 3-pointers, followed by Schrader and Fry with seven apiece. Shearer scored six and Madison Woodward four. Marshall led the team in rebounds with eight and Mabie added five. Marshall led the team in assists with five.
The contest was the last for seniors Hunter Alles, Grace Cotter and Alaina Rongos.
“Hunter and Grace have spent four years sacrificing for the program,” Shearer said. “We’re going to miss their leadership on and off the court.”
Many other key players will return to next year’s squad, and will work hard this offseason to continue to improve. The Eagles end the season with a 14-11 record, their first winning season since 2015.
“We have younger kids coming back who will have to take the initiative to try to improve, too,” Shearer said. “You can’t just stay stagnant, you have to work in the offseason, and we have kids who put in a lot of time in the offseason.”