Luisa Barton sank a pair of free throws with just four seconds left on the clock to cap a last minute Marietta comeback and send the Lady Tigers to a 51-50 victory over the Zanesville Blue Devils in the East Central Ohio League opener for both schools Saturday at Sutton Gymnasium.
The Tigers trailed by six points with 30 seconds to go but reeled off seven unanswered points to clip the Blue Devils and remain undefeated on the young season.
"Somehow, and I don't really know how, our kids found a way tonight," said Lady Tiger head coach Scott Cozzens. "That group of girls has played together for four years and they trust each other."
Just as you would expect in a battle of teams that shared the ECOL Scarlett division title a season ago with Dover, the game was a close, physical contest from the start.
Zanesville head coach Jeff Moore's strategy was clear from the beginning, to have at least two girls guarding MHS standout Erica Dawson at all times. Dawson came into the Saturday's action averaging 34 points per game in the Tigers first two contests.
With Lady Devils' Kenzie Howe and Brooke Davy double-teaming Dawson the second she crossed the halfcourt line, Marietta found offense from another source in the early going in senior Kristin Hill. Hill connected on two three-point shots and eight total points in the first quarter as the Tigers claimed the early 14-11 lead.
Marietta 51 Zanesville 50
Zanesville 11 14 11 14 - 50
Marietta 14 13 7 17 - 51
Kenzie Howe 3-13 5-6 12, Dani Weekley 1-4 1-2 3, Madison Hardwick 4-7 2-2 10, Leanne Ulbrich 4-10 3-6 14, Alexus Grimmett 3-3 1-1 7, Brooke Davy 1-3 0-0 2, Andrea Norman 0-1 0-0 0, Sabrina Madison 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 17-42 12-17 50.
Alexis Walsh 1-3 1-5 3, Luisa Barton 0-2 2-2 2, Taylor Smith 0-3 0-1 0, Lain Weppler 1-4 1-2 3, Erica Dawson 5-13 9-14 22, Kristin Hill 4-8 2-2 13, Kaitlyn Cozzens 0-2 0-0 0, Allie Moore 2-10 4-8 8, Starr Johnson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 13-47 19-34 51.
Team Totals: Shooting: Z: 17-42 (40%), M: 13-47 (28%). Three Point Shooting: Z: 4-19 (21%) (Ulbrich 3, Howe 1). M: 6-16 (38%) (Dawson 3, Hill 3). Rebounds Z: 24 (Hardwick 8), M: 37 (Moore 9, Dawson 6, Weppler 6). Assists: Z: 10 (Howe 6). M: 8 (Barton 3). Turnovers: Z: 16, M: 15. Team Fouls (Z: 26, M: 13. Fouled Out: Ulbrich, Grimmett, Madson.
Next Game: Marietta, Saturday at Dover (1 p.m.)
Junior Varsity Game
Marietta 46 Zanesville 40
Zanesville Scoring: K. Harris 7, L. Draughn 5, A. Norman 3, A. Lett 2, D. Bonner 13, D. Johnson 2, M. Ulbrich 8
Marietta Scoring: A. Fouss 2, M. Miller 6, J. Lieras 3, B. Deskins 11, A. May 5, M. Robinson 5, L. Martin 9, W Gilkeson 1, G. Haas 4.
Cozzens felt Hill's play in the opening quarter was huge in the outcome of the game.
"Kristin Hill did a very nice job in the first quarter," said Cozzens, in his fourth year as coach of the Lady Tigers. "She hit some big shots early on and forced them to play a straight man-to-man defense."
Dawson got the second quarter started for the Tigers with a short jumper and seconds later her triple from way behind the arc was nothing but net to give MHS what would turn out to be its biggest lead of the game at 19-11.
Zanesville cut that Tiger lead in half later in the quarter on a three-point play by Alexus Grimmett and after Dawson answered with another field goal, the Blue Devils went on a 6-0 run to knot things up at 25-25.
Tiger sophomore Allie Moore closed out the half with an inside basket to send the orange and black to the locker room with a 27-25 lead.
Zanesville got a huge spark from Leanne Ulbrich to start the second half as the junior guard scored nine points in an 11-3 third quarter opening run for ZHS that saw them pull out to a 36-30 lead.
Steals by Dawson and Alexis Walsh resulted in Tiger scoring opportunities at the charity stripe but the Tigers managed to convert just one-of five attempts and they trailed by a pair at 36-34 heading to the fourth.
After Dawson converted three-of-four free-throws to open the final quarter, Moore went strong to the basket for an old fashioned three-point play and the Tigers led 41-36 with just over six minutes to play.
Zanesville was not ready to throw in the towel quite yet and a field goal from Ulbrich kicked off what would turn out to be a 14-3 run for the Lady Devils to set up the thrilling finish.
Once again it was Hill who got the Tiger rally going when she sank a pair of free throws to trim the ZHS lead to 50-46 with just 30 ticks left on the clock.
On Zanesville's next possession, Walsh came up with a huge steal and fired the ball down the court to Hill who drilled another three-ball from NBA range to make it a 50-49 game with nine seconds to go. "She (Walsh) came in there and gave us a huge lift," said Cozzens of his senior guard who is still recovering from last year's knee injury. "She made a big steal and got the ball to Kristin and she hit a big shot in transition to make it a one possession game."
With Zanesville attempting to inbound the ball from under the Tiger basket, the Lady Tigers got yet another huge defensive play, this one from sophomore Taylor Smith.
Smith got to the inbound pass at the exact time as the Zanesville player and appeared to knock the ball off of the Blue Devil and out of bounds to give the Tigers possession with seven seconds to play. With everyone in Sutton Gymnasium expecting Dawson to get the ball for an attempt at the game winning shot, the Tigers pulled a surprise as Kaitlyn Cozzens fired the in-bound pass into the hands of Hill.
Hill's jumper bounced off of the front of the rim and into the hands of Barton who drew a Zanesville foul on her shot attempt to set up the game winning free-throws with just four seconds to play.
Barton, who had yet to score in the game, saw her first shot hit the back of the rim before falling in and her second hit nothing but net to send the Marietta bench and crowd into a frenzy.
The Blue Devils still had one shot left but Howe's 20-footer as the buzzer sounded bounced off the backboard and the Tigers had secured the huge win.
"Luisa (Barton) has hit some awful big shots in her career here," said Cozzens. "Those were two really big free throws and the kids are real happy for her."
Barton felt she was in the right place at the right time to be involved in the game deciding play.
"I knew I had to get a shot off after the rebound and at least get fouled," said Barton, who dedicated the deciding free throws to Tiger assistant coach Terry Wallis who recently suffered a stroke. "Luckily I got fouled and was able to make the free throws."
Dawson led all scorers in the game with 22 points, while Hill chipped in with 13.
"A lot of teams try to double Erica and we have to step up," said Hill, who drained three treys in the game. "I was pretty happy to be on my game tonight."
Ulbrich paced Zanesville with 14 points, while Howe and Madison Hardwick both finished in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Cozzens can probably use a break from dramatic finishes as two of his teams first three games have been settled at the buzzer and the other by just five points but the Tiger head coach thought it was a very exciting game.
"They (Zanesville) are a very good team and we are fortunate to win," said Cozzens.
"Both teams left it all out on the floor tonight no doubt about it."
The Tigers will next be in action when they hit the road Saturday to face another conference foe in Dover.