MARION -- A missed free throw left the door open and Harrisburg took advantage Saturday night.
Marion's Justin Saddoris had a chance to seal a win for the Wildcats but missed the second of two free throws with 20.6 seconds left. Harrisburg's Carson Burtis hit a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime and the Bulldogs made 6 of 8 free throws in the extra four minutes to beat the Wildcats, 55-53, at Cuss Wilson Gymnasium.
Harrisburg, which is now 13-3, was coming off an overtime win a night earlier when it knocked off Murphysboro in similar fashion, except Burtis opened the bonus time of that game with a 3-pointer instead of his regulation heroics.
Against the Wildcats, Burtis sank a trey from the top of the key over the outstretched arm of 6-foot-5 Marion senior Cole Schafer, who possibly even knicked the ball, and although Marion had around four seconds left but couldn't get the ball inbounds for a good shot.
A very physical game that had nine lead changes was decided at the foul line in overtime. Blake Drue and Isaiah Saulsberry both hit two shots and Drue split a pair after Saddoris took in a layup. Down by three at 54-51, Marion chose to take two points and Saddoris put in another layup and Jordan Bartok was fouled and split two with 4.8 left on the clock.
But like in regulation, the best shot Marion could get in those final seconds was a backcourt heave by Saddoris that was nowhere close.
Harrisburg was ahead 44-40 with 3:02 left in the fourth after a three-point play by Saulsberry, but free throws by Jackson Connor and Saddoris tied it, then Marion went in front when Saddoris was fouled and hit two bonus tries with 57.6 remaining. A dunk by Terrell Henderson capped an 8-0 run, but Saulsberry canned two foul shots with 24 seconds left to make it 48-46.
Saddoris then split the pair that opened the door for Burtis to extend the game.
The Wildcats are now 11-4 with two straight losses after winning six straight, a stretch that included four wins at the Carbondale Holiday Tournament to win the event's overall title for the first time in its 54-year history. Carbondale drilled the Wildcats on Friday night, 66-49, to end that streak.
Saulsberry hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 23 points to lead all scorers, a night after dropping in 22 against Murphysboro. Dalton Lambert was next with nine but fouled out with 2:43 left in the fourth quarter. Drue had eight and both Burtis and Bartok had six.
Saddoris led Marion with 19 points. Schafer added 11, Jaden Lacy had eight, Terrell Henderson had seven and Jackson Connor had six.
Marion's next game is Friday at home against Centralia.