CEDAR RAPIDS — Davenport Assumption never could shake them. It tried and tried and tried.
The Knights grabbed the lead on four different occasions in the fourth quarter Monday night against Marion in a Class 3A boys basketball substate final.
Marion found an answer every time. None was bigger than the shot off the fingertips of 5-foot-8 senior Alex Whalen.
The senior stepped into a deep 3-pointer and buried it with 1 minute, 51 seconds left as the Indians finished off a 55-49 victory over the Knights at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“The word for the game was ‘gutsy,’” Marion coach Mike Manderscheid said, “and I thought we were incredibly gutsy.
“I told these guys after the first game of the year, you’re not going to be out of any game this year, and they’ve proven it all year long. It is just a matter of us making some plays down the stretch.”
Seeking its first state tournament trip in five years, Assumption (13-11) couldn’t get settled in like it did during tournament wins over Central DeWitt and Mount Vernon last week.
Despite a decisive advantage inside, foul trouble required coach Matt Fitzpatrick to mix and match lineups he hadn’t used frequently during the regular season.
To complicate matters, the Knights were 17 of 47 (36 percent) from the field, including a lot of missed opportunities around the rim.
“We just didn’t have it tonight,” junior Dylan Peeters said.
“They surprised us a little bit,” Assumption point guard Trent Fitzpatrick said. “We came into the game and thought for sure we were the better team, but I give Marion a ton of credit. They really took it to us, had us scrambling on the defensive end and tonight we lacked that intensity a little bit.”
Marion (14-10) used a 22-point second quarter to build an eight-point halftime cushion.
Behind a concerted effort to get the ball inside out of intermission, Assumption charged back.
Sophomore Sean Peeters, who had missed more than a month with a foot injury, returned and collected 15 points and five rebounds.
“I thought I’d be able to go out and do some things, but I didn’t expect to go out there for the majority of the game after five weeks away,” Peeters said. “I thought I’d be more winded. I surprised myself.”
Assumption’s Landon Dugan buried a corner 3-pointer to even the game after three periods.
“I knew at half, there was plenty of game and I knew these guys would get themselves back in the game,” coach Fitzpatrick said. “There was no panic. They really responded and did some things better.”
Assumption led 41-40, 43-41, 45-44, 47-46 and even 49-46 with 3:25 remaining after a Ray Thrapp baseline runner.
Marion wouldn’t go away. It made two free throws to creep within one.
Then with less than 2 minutes left, Whalen — saddled by foul trouble for much of the game -- drained an attempt from the left wing to give Marion a 51-49 lead.
“That put a little pressure on them,” Manderscheid said.
Trent Fitzpatrick misfired on a 3-pointer at the other end, and Marion converted four free throws in the final 64 seconds to hang on and secure its first state tournament trip since 2011.
“They just made winning plays down the stretch,” Dylan Peeters said.
Chase Zielke came off the bench to lead Marion with 14 points. Trevor Paulsen chipped in 13.
Other than Sean Peeters, Assumption had nobody in double figures.
It was difficult to stomach for the Knights afterward.
Just two years removed from a 5-18 season, Assumption had rolled through the first two rounds and seemed poised to get its senior class — led by Trent Fitzpatrick and Thrapp — to Des Moines for the first time.
“It is tough, by far the hardest end of the season for me so far,” coach Fitzpatrick said. “Our seniors have been incredible. I wanted to see them get to the state tournament in the worst way.
“We were in a bad spot three years ago, and we’re in a much better place now because of those seniors. I’ll always remember this senior class.”
Assumption has solid pieces to build around for next season. Dylan and Sean Peeters are back along with post Anthony Valainis and wing Ray Kotula.
“This is going to really leave a bad taste in our mouths through the offseason and going into next year,” Dylan Peeters said. “Hopefully, we can take that next step and get to state next year.”