The Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran Cadets won their second Class 3A girls basketball state championship in three years with a 42-39 victory over Mt. Vernon.
Lauren Marinko made sure of it.
Marinko scored the final eight points for the seventh-ranked Cadets in a tight game that featured 18 ties and lead changes. Six of her points came at the free throw line. Marinko collected the other two on a slashing drive down the lane that gave Concordia the lead for good at 38-36 with 33 seconds remaining.
At the two-minute mark, Mt. Vernon's Jessica Brown hit a 12-footer to knot the game at 34-all. It set up a frenetic ending, but the No. 2-ranked Marauders couldn't prevent Marinko's clutch scoring.
Coach Dave Miller's Cadets won their final nine games and finished 21-5. In 2010, their only other state finals appearance, the Cadets defeated Rushville.
Marinko led Concordia with 17 points. Courtney Smith added nine points and had a team-high seven rebounds.
Coach Julie Shelton's Mt. Vernon team was playing in its first state title game in 35 years. Also, the Marauders are the only Hancock County team to advance to the finals. They concluded with a 23-6 record after outscoring opponents by a margin of 20.5 points before the championship game.
Brown led the Marauders with 17 points. Erica Moore added nine. Anna Olson had a game-high eight rebounds.
Concordia's Lauren Marinko named Roy Mental Attitude Award Winner
Following the game, members of the IHSAA Executive Committee named Lauren Marinko of Fort Wayne's Concordia Lutheran High School as the winner of the Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award in Class 3A Girls Basketball.
The award is presented annually to a senior participant in each classification who was nominated by her principal and coach and has demonstrated excellence in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability.
Marinko maintains a 4.06 GPA while challenging herself through a strong academic program. She is a two year member of the National Honor Society and has received several top scholar awards through her school.
She's a three-year member of the school's advanced chorus, has served as team captain of the basketball team the last two years and also has participated on the tennis team in her three previous years.
The daughter of Paul and Renee Marinko of Fort Wayne, Lauren will continue her education at Valparaiso University by pursuing a degree in International Business.
Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, the IHSAA's corporate partner, will present a $1,000 scholarship to Concordia Lutheran High School in the name of Marinko.
The award is named in honor of the former IHSAA assistant commissioner Patricia L. Roy, who oversaw the girls basketball state tournament from its inception in 1976 until her retirement in 1999.
Fort Wayne Concordia Coach David Miller
"These kids compete. They have tremendous heart and I just love them for that. It starts with the seniors and just trickles down to everyone else. What a legacy they've left behind. They just battled so hard today. I thought our backside help and post defense was pretty good today holding them to where we did."
On Mt. Vernon
"They are so physical and strong and the guards are quick. It didn't appear that we could match up with them on paper. We talked to the kids about the team that's more aggressive is going to win this game, the team that has the most composure and plays with the most energy and intensity is going to win this game."
On winning second state title
"Concordia has great kids, great scholar-athletes and I think that's pretty evident when you watch them play. They are intelligent kids, they play well together. They are quality people and you can be pretty successful with that."
Concordia's Lauren Marinko
On picking up her fourth foul
"Honestly while I was playing, I'd forgot that I had four fouls and I was able to get in a rhythm."
Mt. Vernon (Fortville) Coach Julie Shelton
"They were physical and we didn't react to that very well. We missed a lot of shots that we usually hit. We could never get the fast pace because they played physical."
"We had a great year. It wasn't the way we wanted to end it. We battled but we just couldn't finish. Both teams played very hard. There was great defense. Both teams made runs back and forth but there were never any big leads either way. I thought at the beginning of the third quarter when they hit those three three's that broke our back a little bit."
On Mt. Vernon's final shot
"We tried to bring Jess (Brown) off a screen but they had too much length on defense. We had (Rachel) Houck in the corner for a three and (Makenzie) Reasor flaring for a three. Jess decided to take it and she has been our go-to player all year."
"Because of the defense being played by both teams, we could tell early that this game was not going to be a blow out and nobody was going to have huge runs. You had to value each of your possessions."
"They beat us on the boards and we don't usually get beat on the boards. We knew that was the case going in and it became a factor in the game. They are a strong team and they had a height advantage over us. We caused a lot of turnovers for them but we couldn't capitalize enough to make difference."