MARION – It was the tired cliché where two very evenly matched teams play 10 times and win five apiece.
This particular time, this particular game was decided by Owen Hopkins and free-throw shooting. Benton Community had both.
Hopkins hit a driving layup to tie it with under a second left, then splashed a tide-turning 3-pointer in overtime to help the Bobcats past Marion, 79-72, in a Wamac Conference thriller last night. It's a shame this was the only time these rivals play each other this season.
"A real big team effort tonight. A good win," said Benton's Nate Woeste. "To come up to Marion and beat them on their home court is nice."
Daly Quinn's cold-blooded 3-pointer with 48 seconds to go put Marion (2-3) on top, 60-59, and Woeste was called for a charging foul with 18.7 left. Sophomore Jacob Manderscheid made one of two free throws for a two-point Indians lead, but Hopkins tied it with a drive past his man and right down the heart of the lane.
Woeste was the first option on the play, but he was covered up.
"I messed up a little bit, but I kept with the play," Hopkins said. "(Coach) said drive, so I did. I didn't want to (have) the charge, so I stepped back a little bit and shot it."
Benton (3-2) took control early in the OT, with Hopkins and sophomore center Tucker Schroeder making significant plays offensively. The Bobcats jumped out by as many as eight points and ended up winning by seven.
Quite a turnaround, considering it was Marion that led by 10 points in the fourth quarter.
"Honestly, I just kind of trust these guys," said Benton Community Coach Larry Carlson. "We've got a really good core group of seniors that have played a lot of basketball together. They really get along with each other very well. I talked to Nate in the spring and said 'I'm going to put my eggs in your basket to kind of get Benton basketball going the right way.' I'm very proud of him for how he has done that. Our juniors are starting to rally around this. We're slowly becoming that team, that solid team."
Woeste led his team with 20 points, with rugged forward Ben Twedt adding 18. Hopkins had 13 off the bench.
Craig Engle led Marion with 22 points, with Daly Quinn adding 16 and Quinn Cannoy 15. The Indians made only 9 of 21 free throws in the game to Benton's 24 of 29.
"Right there. That's the story of the game," Marion Coach Mike Manderscheid said. "We played hard, we improved. I thought our half-court defense was better tonight, and that was an area of concern, an area of focus for us ... But when it came right down to it, we didn't get enough stops. Down at the end of the game, we had to get stops. It was just kind of score, score, score, score, score there."
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