By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- For all of Michael Marston's impressive statistics against Page County, it's the Central senior's final rebound of the game that he won't forget.
Marston grabbed his 12th and final rebound off a missed free throw with 0.9 seconds left to secure Central's 63-61 Shenandoah District win over previously undefeated Page County on Thursday night.
"I told Seth [Bauserman] before [Dylan Painter] took the free throw, 'We gotta box out,'" Marston said. "We boxed out and the ball just happened to come to me and I was able to grab hold of it.
"I didn't even hear the buzzer sound. It was so loud in here. It was definitely my most memorable rebound."
The Falcons led throughout the game but had trouble putting away the Panthers, who were ranked No. 3 in the latest Associated Press Group A poll.
Central (13-4, 6-1 Shenandoah) had to play much of the final quarter without senior guard Aaron Heishman, who picked up his fourth foul with 1:57 left in the third quarter. Bauserman replaced Heishman and picked up the scoring load with back-to-back baskets to stretch the Falcons' lead to 48-41.
"I knew when Aaron [Heishman] went to the bench I had to step up and score some," Bauserman said. "I know whenever Aaron and Michael [Marston] are on the bench I have to step up and that's what I tried to do."
The Falcons started to pull away early in the fourth quarter. Back-to-back baskets by Leon McCray and two free throws by Kyle Willis gave Central a 56-45 lead with 6:20 left.
The Panthers (18-1, 6-1) battled back with an 8-2 run. Marston, who had a career-high 24 points and 12 rebounds, finished his scoring for the night with a 3-pointer to give Central a 61-53 lead with 3:02 left.
"It's definitely not my job or my role on the team," the 6-foot-3 center said with a smile. "I know most big guys usually don't take 3s, but I can hit them. It was a great feed. I was open, so I took it."
Page County rallied with a 3-pointer by Allen Cloude and two free throws from Dakota Wolf. Central's Kyle Willis hit a running jumper with 45 seconds left to extend the lead to 63-58.
A 3-pointer by Tanner Dofflemeyer cut the lead to 63-61 with 18.8 seconds left. Heishman was fouled, but missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Page County a chance. Wolf missed a 3-pointer, but in the scramble for the rebound, Matt Sherfey was called for a foul on Painter with 0.9 seconds left.
Painter missed the first of his two free throws and then purposely missed the second one, which Marston was able to haul in.
"This was a big win for us," Central coach Roger Wilkins said. "This was a signature win for this group of kids. Hopefully we can build on this."
Bauserman had 11 points, while Heishman added 10. The win ties Central with Page County and Luray in the loss column in the district. The Falcons lost to the Panthers earlier this season and still have two games left with Luray.
After the game, Central's student section, called "The Nest," rushed the court to celebrate with the players by jumping up and down as a group on the court.
"The energy tonight -- I don't even know how to put that into words," Bauserman said. "The Nest was crazy tonight. We really feed off of the crowd. I feel like we're tough to beat at home.
"The celebration at the end was unbelievable. [Page County] did the same thing to us in the last game. I remember looking back and seeing Dakota Wolf jumping up and down with the crowd and thinking that will not happen next time."