After bursting out of the gate with a 10-0 start, the Marion boys endured an ugly second quarter and never fully recovered in Friday’s 52-41 loss to Heart of America leader Bennington.
The Warriors came out on fire, scoring 10 points on two three-point baskets by Ethan Hett and two baskets by Jacob Harper over the first 2:14.
But when the Warriors lost steam on offense, the Bulldogs closed the gap to 12-9 by the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter proved fatal for the Warriors, who did not score a point during the period.
“We got rattled for a long stretch and didn’t get too far behind because we were still defending pretty well,” coach Jeff McMillin said. “But offensively we began doing many uncharacteristic things—missing point-blank shots and throwing very rushed, inaccurate passes that contributed to our season-high in turnovers.”
Marion finished with 17 turnovers.
Bennington assumed a 13-12 lead 34 seconds into the second period, and, taking advantage of missed Warrior shots and a few turnovers, surged to a 22-12 lead by halftime.
Bennington’s defense contributed to Marion’s offensive struggle.
“(Bennington) did a great job of mixing defenses and taking us out of attack mode, because we were always looking to see what defense they were in,” McMillin said. “I think this is only effective if you play with a lot of energy and intensity on defense, and (Bennington) did that.”
The Warriors did not score in the third quarter until Jordan Hett made two free-throws with 5:49 remaining.
The Bulldogs surged 5-0 before Harper answered with two points from the charity stripe at the 2:40 mark, which ignited a 7-0 Marion rally to draw within 29-21 on an Austin Pedersen three-pointer with 41 seconds left in the period.
Bennington held a 30-23 lead going into the final quarter of play.
The Bulldogs pushed the lead back to double figures to open the fourth quarter after capitalizing on a steal, but a Harper three-point basket followed by a basket by Jordan Hett brought Marion to within 34-28.
But Bennington drained two baskets from behind the arc in 32 seconds to push the lead to 40-30.
The teams traded scores, but Marion found a spark when Pedersen hit a three with 3:15 to play, igniting a 7-0 surge that closed the gap to 45-41 when Harper scored off a steal at the 1:54 mark.
“During the stretch where (Bennington) ran out ahead of us, our rebounding was a main culprit in letting them do that,” McMillin said. “When we made a comeback at the end and got the deficit down to four, our rebounding was much better.”
It would be the Warriors’ final points of the night, however. Bennington scored three points from the charity stripe and then added two baskets in the final 40 seconds to claim the 11-point victory.
“Too many uncharacteristic errors to complete the comeback,” McMillin said. “We made pass attempts and ball-handling errors I have never seen this team make.”
Harper led the Marion attack with 19 total points.
Ell-Saline––In another low-scoring game, the Warriors used defense to propel themselves to a 38-23 win Tuesday against a physical Ell-Saline team.
“We weren’t rattled when the score was low early on because we knew that’s how (the Cardinals) like to play, and we knew we were just going to have to stick to it,” coach Jeff McMillin said. “We thought that our skill set and our defense would carry us through it, and that’s what happened.
“It played out like we thought it would.”
Missed shots abounded in the first quarter. The game’s first points came halfway through the period when Zach Robson drained a three-point basket.
Jordan Hett scored with 1:20 left for a 5-0 Marion lead. Ell-Saline got on the board with a three-point play with 40 seconds left for a 5-3 score at the end of the first period.
Marion turned up the heat in the second quarter, draining four three-point shots. Robson hit a three, and then Taylor Heidebrecht pushed the lead to 10-3 with 6:00 left
Robson nailed a second three at 3:52 for a 13-5 advantage. Following an Ell-Saline basket, the Warriors surged 10-0. The half ended with back-to-back threes by Austin Pedersen and Ethan Hett, which boosted Marion to a 23-7 halftime lead.
“(Ell-Saline) made our shots tough,” McMillin said. “Even the easy ones they made tough because they were physical, and they were athletic. We got some of those that I thought were good shots to fall, and I think that was part of the reason why we went from 13-7 to 23-7.”
After intermission, the Cardinals scored two points from the charity stripe at the 4:34 mark and did not score again until eight seconds remained in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Jordan Hett and Jacob Harper scored seven points for a 30-11 advantage going into the final quarter.
Ell-Saline outscored the Warriors 12-8 in the final period, but Marion claimed the victory.
“It was a game that required a lot of mental toughness,” McMillin said. “It was called real physically. A lot of stuff was let go, which was fine because it was that way for both teams, but sometimes that frustrates players.”
As a team, the Warriors shot just 23 percent from the field (12-52). Jordan Hett led Marion with 13 points. Harper grabbed 10 rebounds for Marion.
Coming––Marion was scheduled to host HOA league rival Inman (6-2, 12-5) Tuesday before traveling to Bennington (7-1, 16-1) for a rematch set to begin at 7:30 p.m.