The Owls made only six of 27 three-point field-goals attempts, well below their 46-percent average -- and a big drop from the 11 they sank three days earlier during a 57-48 semifinal win over top-seeded Wellington.
"Nothing was going in," remarked MHS head coach Jason Varner. "It was rough, but they stuck together and came out with the 'W' -- and that's the most important thing."
Marshall missed 13 of 15 shots during the first quarter, including nine straight from beyond the arc before senior Ben Valencia found the range with 11 seconds left, but were still tied with the Bulldogs -- who made only three of 11 from the field.
The Owls were able to pull in front by five points during the second period, but Hardin closed with five straight points over the final 30 seconds -- including a put-back of a missed free throw by sophomore Zak Finley at the horn -- to head into the break with a two-point lead.
Marshall began hitting the mark during the third quarter, sophomore Conner Cooley knocking down a pair of bombs early in the frame. The Owls tallied eight straight points to break a 26-all tie when senior Zach Bishop fed junior Zach Glassmaker inside, followed by perimeter jumpers by sophomore Lance Thomas and Valencia.
Just as helpful to Marshall's cause was defense, which forced nine Bulldog turnovers and collected eight of 10 possible rebounds on its own backboard.
"Our defense has picked up since Christmas break," Varner said. "I'm proud of the way they get after people and play defense. They give it everything they've got."
Hardin wasn't done, but was unable to get a run going. A lay-up by freshman Clif Kugler was answered by junior Caleb Willis' high-post jumper, but the 'Dogs made it a three-point contest on sophomore Wyatt Craven's bomb.
Craven posted up down low to close the margin to two points, but Cooley hit from outside with 1:02 remaining. Glassmaker ripped down a defensive rebound and Hardin called timeout after a foul with 31 seconds to go.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it was only their third team foul, meaning it would take four more for Marshall to get into the bonus. The Owls ran five seconds off before the next foul could stop the clock, another 15 seconds before the fifth team foul, and then the final 10 seconds without interruption.
"I don't know what that situation was, but it was good for us," Varner said about the quick end-game.
Kugler led Hardin (11-5) with 13 points and Craven had a dozen.
Marshall was led by Cooley's 11 points, three assists and three steals -- while Bishop and sophomore Logan Harris combined for 22 rebounds.
The Owls (6-8) take a four-game win streak into the 32nd annual Wildcat Classic at Slater this week, against an even tougher field -- including state-ranked Higginsville (No. 5, Class 3), Sacred Heart (No. 4, Class 2) and Glasgow (No. 8, Class 1).
Marshall opens Tuesday with a rematch against the Gremlins, who won a 63-52 decision on Nov. 27.