Byron girls survive OT scare from Chesaning to remain unbeaten, close in on first-ever outright league title
BYRON — As of the end of Friday night’s action around the state, there were 14 unbeaten girls basketball teams remaining.
And, cardiac arrest from a close call aside, Byron is still one of them.
The Eagles, ranked No. 13 in the last STATE CHAMPS! Top 25, survived a scare from the once-beaten Chesaning Indians in Friday’s showdown for the lead in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference, pushing the game to overtime where they won, 38-32.
Sarah Marvin hit two free throws with 56.7 seconds left to send the game into overtime, then scored seven of her team’s eight points in the extra period to win it.
“They had a good plan. That’s probably the best defensive team we’ve faced. They played tremendous defense. We were kind of expecting the box-and-one on Sarah, because they’d played that a lot. It rattled us for a while — I’m not going to lie. … Once we made it to overtime, we were like, ‘We got this. We know we can beat them in four minutes,’” Byron coach Theresa Marvin said. “We needed this. … We knew was going to be a tough game. We haven’t had a close game. They (the Indians) are fighters. I knew from the time they came into the gym, the energy they were going to bring. We knew it was going to be a tough game.”
The win puts Byron at 12-0 — the longest they’ve ever gone into a season without a loss — and 10-0 in the MMAC, with four league games left to play. They’ve already beaten the two next closest teams in the standings — Chesaning (11-2, 8-2 MMAC) and Ovid-Elsie (9-5, 6-4) — twice each, and have one game left against last year’s co-champ, New Lothrop (7-6, 6-4), before they can celebrate a title.
But it does put them that much closer to having their first-ever league title all to themselves.
“I went into the locker room, and I screamed ‘NO MORE SHARING!’ We have shared the league title — twice in the GAC and once in the MMAC — for three straight years,” Theresa Marvin said. “Regardless of what happens — I know we’ve gotta win the rest of our games, so I don’t want to overlook anybody — but more than likely this was the league championship game. This was a huge goal, regardless of how the playoffs go, we got this done.”
It’s something the Eagles want pretty badly.
“So bad. Couple games to go, but this was definitely a big step to not sharing. If we can win outright, that’s the first championship won outright in our girls basketball history. It’ll just be huge,” Sarah Marvin said. “That’s what we’ve been working for all season was just to win it outright. We’re so sick of sharing.”
Considering the Eagles were coming off a season in 2018-19 where they matched the school record for wins (17), and had two of their four losses come against Division 3 runner-up Flint Hamady, they were a pretty safe bet to be pretty good this year.
They’ve been better than pretty good so far. Outside of the two games against Chesaning this season, nobody’s really pushed the Eagles at all.
They came into Friday’s game averaging 59.2 points per game, winning 11 times by an average of 30.4 points per game. Only three opponents had kept the margin within 20 points.
Which was why Friday’s positively turtle pace was so much of an outlier.
For all that the high-flying Eagles were more or less grounded by the Indians’ slow-it-down press — kept from running the ball up and down the court, and limited to 20 points below their average scoring output — they certainly weren’t disappointed in themselves.
They knew they needed a test like this.
“I know a lot of people are going to look at this and say, ‘Oh it was way too close …’ And it was. But when we play these good teams in our league, they game-plan for us specifically, and their game-plan worked well. That’s something that we’re going to see in the playoffs, so I think it was good for us to finally — in the fourth quarter and overtime we were finally working through things. It’s good to just be in those close games and play out those situations,” said Sarah Marvin, who admitted it was frustrating trying to move the ball against the stingy press for Chesaning.
“It’s frustrating, but we know it’s going to happen, because when teams scout us, obviously they see that we push the floor. Don’t get me wrong — we had opportunities; I made multiple turnovers on the fast break that can’t happen in bigger games. When teams slow it down, I think it’s good for us to speed it up in the moments we can speed it up.”
Byron led 9-5 after the first quarter, and 19-16 at the half, but Chesaning used an 8-0 run to get ahead, then took a 25-24 lead into the fourth, thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Liz Coon.
“The first time we played them, we only had a five-point lead at halftime. We’ve been a third-quarter team, so I think it shocked the girls a little bit, when we weren’t up after the third quarter in this game, but they held on,” Theresa Marvin said. “The halftime speech was ‘We’re up by three, we’re in a good place, and we can beat them in two quarters.’”
Karissa Ferry’s bucket with 2:34 left in regulation gave Chesaning a 29-26 lead, then Sidnee Struck split a pair of free throws with 1:20 left to make it 30-28.
Sarah Marvin was fouled with 56.7 seconds left, and went to the free-throw line with a chance to tie it. An 89-percent shooter coming into the game, she’d missed two free throws in the first half, and the front end of a one-and-one in the fourth quarter.
“She was freaking out because she missed two in the first half,” Theresa Marvin said, noting that she never worries about her daughter at the line. “No. She iced my nerves last year, when she hit three in a row to send us to the first overtime against Hamady. I’m good. I have full confidence in her.”
The junior had to get confidence in herself back, though.
“Free throws are free points, that’s how I look at it, so missing three (earlier in the game) like that, really just stuck on me. But when it came down to 50 seconds left, I just had to forget those misses, and shoot them like I was 5-for-5. And I made them when it counted,” Sarah Marvin said. “So that was good that I was able to get out of my head a little bit.”
She hit seven straight from that point on, connecting on two less than a minute into the overtime period, then tacking on the and-one on a three-point play with 2:27 left to make it 35-30.
Struck had 10 points to lead Chesaning, while Coon had eight and Lauren Schirle had seven.
Sarah Marvin finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and six steals for Byron, while her fraternal twin Becky had four points. Makayla Clement had 11 points and three assists, while her freshman sister Makenna had six rebounds.
“Oh, we’re having so much fun. This group of girls, I feel like we raised them on the basketball court. Coach (Jim) Passig and coach (Brandy) Forgie and I have been with them when they were in third and fourth grade,” Theresa Marvin said. “You can see the energy on my bench, even when they’re not in the game. All 14, they’re just all-in.
“We’re having fun.”