EagleHerald/Billy Betts
Cameron Noffke goes up for a contested fast-break lay-up over Marinette’s Matt Wagner during the second half of their game on Tuesday.
EagleHerald/Billy Betts

Cameron Noffke goes up for a contested fast-break lay-up over Marinette’s Matt Wagner during the second half of their game on Tuesday.

<
1
2
3
>

MARINETTE — With expectations high, the hype leading up to the Marinette and Peshtigo boys basketball game lived up to the billing on Tuesday.

In front of a full house, two overtimes were needed before the Marines secured a 68-65 victory over the Bulldogs.

“I couldn’t tell you a lot of what happened during the game, but it was a fight until the end,” Marinette coach Matt Joost said. “It was a back-and-forth game between two teams unwilling to quit. I was proud of how we battled.”

It was a night of celebration for Marine players Jake Poetzl and Matt Wagner. Both players were honored before the game with Poetzl playing his first home game after breaking Ben Kitkowski’s scoring record of 1,180 points on Saturday. Wagner also cleared 1,000 points in the Marines playoff loss to Notre Dame last season, which also was acknowledged before Tuesday’s game.

The Marines overcame a late 58-54 deficit behind a floater in the lane by Poetzl and two free throws by Wagner with just over a minute left to play, tying the game at 58.

Marinette then forced a Peshtigo turnover and had a chance to win in regulation, but stout defense by the Bulldogs bottled Wagner on his last-second attempt. Mitchell VanVooren gave the Bulldogs an early overtime lead by scoring on a layup to put Peshtigo up 60-58.

A free throw from Jeremy Wendt followed by a put-back layup by Wagner put the Marines up 61-60 with just over a minute remaining in the first overtime, before Cameron Noffke drew a foul and made one of two attempts to tie the game at 61-61 and send the game to a second overtime.

Wagner drew an early foul and sank both shots from the charity stripe. After forcing a Bulldogs’ missed shot, Marinette ran the clock down to just under a minute remaining before Poetzl was fouled and made both free throws, extending the lead to 65-61 with under a minute remaining.

VanVooren hit a quick basket inside 20 seconds later, but two free throws by Tyler Fayta kept the lead at four with under 40 seconds left. Joe Sodini got the Bulldogs back to within two on a shot near the basket and two missed free throws by the Marines gave Peshtigo a chance with 13 seconds remaining, but a block of the shot from Darren Dionne was corralled in by Wagner, who made one of two from the line in the final second to put the game away.

“I challenged the guys, especially in the second overtime, to possess the ball and get ahead right away,” Joost said. “I don’t think we did a good enough job of that throughout the game, but we were able to stay ahead in overtime when we needed to.”

Missing three players from a trip to Costa Rica, the Bulldogs resembled a team at full strength and had many contributions from key role players who were asked to step into starting roles.

“We’re not going to make any excuses about who wasn’t here, because it’s the next man up for us,” Peshtigo coach Nate Motkowski said. “We didn’t change our strategy at all and I thought players like Darren (Dionne) and Damon (Jones) really played well and earned starting spots going forward.”

Marinette jumped out to a 25-15 lead with just over four minutes left in the first half on two tough baskets inside and a 3-pointer by Wagner.

The lead grew to 30-19 on a Rylie Nelson triple two minutes later. That shot proved to be valuable as the Bulldogs finished the half on a 7-1 run run behind three free throws by Nathan Goneau and a basket each by VanVooren and Dionne made it 31-26 at halftime.

The Marines had their biggest lead at 39-28 just over two minutes into the second half after Poetzl drilled a 3-pointer and scored on a put-back. Peshtigo, fought back and went on a 21-9 run over the next seven minutes to take a 49-48 lead, causing the final eight minutes of regulation to finish in a seesaw battle.

“Our kids never got down and fought back,” Motkowski said. “Neither team gave an inch down the stretch. Several kids stepped up when we need them to.”

Wagner led the Marines (2-1), with 20 points. Poetzl finished with 18, 15 of which came in the second half and overtime and both Bretl and Nelson added 11 a piece.

“I thought Rylie (Nelson) really stepped up off the bench for us and did his job of knocking down shots,” Joost said. “He made shots at key situations.”

VanVooren paced the Bulldogs with 20 points, Noffke had 16, Dionne added 12 and Jones chipped in 11.

“I thought we played really well defensively overall,” Motkowski said. “If you would have told me we’d play eight extra minutes and still keep their best guys in check, I’d say that was a pretty good night.”