After Marion Local won the Division IV state basketball title by beating his team, 52-51, in double overtime at the Schottenstein Center on Saturday, Cornerstone Christian coach Dan Selle was right about everything … except for one thing.
He said Marion Local was “not afraid of the big stage.”
He said: “We just couldn’t give them the knockout punch.”
And he said the Flyers’ Tyler Mescher is “an absolute horse.”
But then he opined a bit more Mescher, who he sized up as 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds: “The guy is tough as nails. He’s not a vegetarian. He eats meat for breakfast.”
Actually, the grinning Mescher (who is 6-2) said he did not have meat:
“I had potatoes and I’ve had a ritual all year where I eat a little thing of Easy Mac ‘n Cheese. I do it before every single game and I did it again today. It was 7:30 (in the morning),” but I threw it in the microwave and then I was ready to go.”
He certainly was.
He played all 48 minutes of Saturday’s game, scored 18 points, had nine rebounds and won the game for the Flyers with two pressure-packed free throws with 2.6 seconds left.
“Any little kid, that’s their dream, to be able to shoot two free throws at the end of a game – a championship game – and make ‘em both and be able to help your team win,” he said.
But his childhood dream and Saturday’s reality were a little different.
His team was down by a point, a crowd of 9,620 – including it seemed almost everybody from all those little burgs like Maria Stein, Osgood, Chickasaw, St. Sebastian, St. Rose, Yorkshire and Cassella that send students to Marion Local — was focused on him and he was feeling some nerves.
Before the first attempt, even though he said he was praying to himself, he admitted: “I couldn’t say still.”
A couple of teammates came up to him and told him to “relax, you got this.”
And on the sideline Flyers coach Kurt Goettemoeller was silently repeating the same plea he had all game:
“Come on Aaron, one more time.
“Just once more, Aaron. Once more.”
Nine days ago, a few hours before Marion Local was to play rival Fort Loramie for the Regional title and a trip to the state tournament, 40-year-old Aaron Rose, a man with deep ties to both schools, was killed in an auto accident on State Route 127 near Celina.
A box truck went left of center and hit his SUV, killing him at the scene.
He was on his way home from work and was looking forward to being at the game that was played at Trent Arena.
He had gone to school at Marion Local and still lived in Maria Stein. He had taught several years at Fort Loramie, where he also coached football and basketball. He had had several of the Loramie players in class.
“He had joked he’d wear his red underwear (Loramie’s color) to the game, but he’d root for Marion Local,” Goettemoeller said. “We found out he’d been killed on the way to the game. When we got there, Fort Loramie’s coach came up and he had been bawling. We all were shook up.
“And (Saturday) I had Aaron with me. He was in my heart and I had him in my pocket. His obituary. All game I talked to him and I think he had something to do with those last two free throws because neither one was perfect.”
Mescher’s first attempt hit the right side of the rim and looked as if was going to bounce out. Instead it rolled around the cylinder and then teetered sideways and dropped into the net cords. That tied the game, 51-51.
The next shot was better and swished through to give the Flyers the one-point margin they needed for the win.
The victory gave Marion Local a rare double this season. They also won the state Division VI football title in December. Ten of the basketball team’s top 12 players played both sports.
The school is best known as a football power. It had won 10 state titles since 2000 and six in a row.
Saturday’s victory was also the 126th state title (all sports) for the Midwest Athletic Conference. Last weekend the Minster girls team won state crown 125.
“Not to brag, but I think we’re part of one of the best, if not the best, conference in the state of Ohio,” Mescher said. “It doesn’t matter what sport, boys or girls, someone in the MAC is going to be competing for the title.
“I think playing MAC teams all season helps us all make deep tournament runs. We’ve played good teams all season, so we’re ready for the tournament teams.”
The Flyers were also helped Saturday by the end of the bench guys who are an animated, energetic dance crew during timeouts and sometimes even when play begins.
The Schottenstein crowd was entertained by them the whole game – their gyrating images became a staple of the big overhead video board late in the game – and Mescher said the team feeds off their positive energy.
“I’m sure they’re entertaining and I know the parents love ‘em, but I don’t get to see them,” said Goettemoeller, who is busy coaching at the other end of the bench. “I’m usually just tripping over them. But they’re an example of how it took a whole team to do this today.”
In practice, the end of the bench dancers make up the “gold team” that simulates the opponent and Saturday their work paid off.
They enabled some of the starters to have big days, including Nathan Bruns – also the football team’s quarterback – who had 18 points, 14 rebounds and made several huge shots down the stretch.
Tyler Prenger also was clutch, hitting three three-pointers, two of them late in the game, to finish with 10 points.
State champ again
Mescher was a standout defensive end and also a tight end and punter for the football team. He was a four-year starter for the basketball team and topped the 1,000 point mark this year.
“He was a guy we didn’t see anything like this year,” said Selle. “There aren’t many 6-foot-1, 240 pound guys on our schedule. They’re usually 6-6 or 6-8. He’s a guy you hate to play against, but love to have on your team.”
Although he got his first two shots blocked Saturday, Mescher said he was not intimidated:
“It happened all year. I play in the post at 6-foot-. But I have a wide body and I try to use my butt. I got a big butt and I try to get ‘em out of there. That’s what I did today.”
Although he has some Division III scholarship offers, he has decided to forego sports and go to Bowling Green, where he said he’ll study early childhood development education” “I want to be a teacher and help kids. I like to help people.”
He certainly helped his team Saturday and afterward, as he stood there with his championship medal and a piece of the Schott net around his neck, he couldn’t stop beaming:
“I am a state champion again. And it’s awesome. I love it … I just love it, love it, love it.
“I love this town and this community. There’s no other place I’d rather be.”
And that’s where the team was headed once it left Columbus.
First. though, he hoped they’d stop and eat.
“I’m gonna get some burgers,” he laughed.
The Cornerstone coach was right.
Tyler Mescher is a meat eater.