HUTCHINSON — For as many outstanding plays as the Marion girls basketball team made in the Class 3A championship on Saturday, there is still a fine line of the caliber of play it takes to win a title.
Thomas More Prep led wire-to-wire and in the final four minutes made two three-pointers and 9 of 10 free throws to clinch a 56-45 victory at the Sports Arena.
"That's what it comes down to," Marion coach Randy Savage said. "Whichever team makes the other team do something they don't want to do."
When TMP hits its first late three-pointer, the Warriors' Julia Zeiner responded with a turnaround jumper at the other end to cut the lead to 44-42 with 2:23 remaining. But when the second three came, the margin of error for Marion narrowed.
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Five straight misses for Marion ended its chances at a final run.
Zeiner, Lindsay Hett, Kayley Herrey and Whitney Gordon shouldered most of Marion's production, combining for 40 points, 27 rebounds and 10 assists.
After Zeiner picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter, Marion rallied from five points down to tie the score at 33.
"We finally got a couple of stops," Savage said. "That's what we were telling them, get a couple of stops and then we can start worrying about scoring."
Third place: Garden Plain 61, Jefferson North 46 — The Owls brought more emotion to the third-place game, playing for their eight seniors and their 20-6 season.
Garden Plain took command by grabbing a 20-8 lead in the second quarter.
For the rest of the game, the lead hovered around 10 points without much of a push from Jefferson North.
"I knew there was no going back," senior Samantha Ledy said. "We couldn't go back and replay that game, so we had to pick it up as a team. For eight of us, it was our last game, so we played with all of our hearts."
Ledy scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and fellow senior Camille Hubert added 15 points.
After a 3-3 start entering Christmas break, the Owls turned their season around with a third-place finish.
"Senior leadership," Garden Plain coach Sarah McCormick said. "They really wanted to end their year on a win because we had such a good year."