It may have been a tad ugly, but the Marion boys’ basketball team took care of business Friday by defeating Southeast of Saline, 61-47, in the Warriors’ season opener on the road.
“It wasn’t as pretty as I?want it to be down the road, but the effort was good,” coach Jeff McMillin said. “It wasn’t ugly because we were lethargic. It was ugly because it was Game 1 and we have some things to work on.”
Jacob Harper started things rolling for the Warriors with four points in the first two minutes. The senior finished with 26 points, over half of those coming in the first two periods.
Though Marion struggled to get shots to fall and trailed early, James Jones pulled down offensive rebounds to keep the Warriors in the game.
“They were hitting shots and we weren’t, but there were several possessions in a row where we got multiple looks out of it, because (Jones) was just all over the place,” McMillin said. “He played good defense and kept a lot of possessions alive for us.”
With two minutes left in the first period, senior Jordan Hett made back-to-back baskets to tie it up, 10-10. A three-point shot at the buzzer gave SES the 13-12 advantage as the quarter ended.
The Warriors scored 11 straight points to start the second quarter and claim a 23-13 lead. Harper made a free throw to complete a three-point play with 42 seconds left, then the Trojans hit a bucket to make it 31-26, Marion, at halftime.
SES put together a six-point run to begin the second half, drawing to within a point. But Marion’s Ethan Hett hit a three-point basket at 4:13 to make it 36-32.
The Warriors maintained the lead through the rest of quarter, but with 1:42 left, the Trojans rallied to within one, 42-41.
But Harper made three free throws to give Marion some breathing room. Ethan Hett then scored to make it 45-41 to end the third period.
Marion got good contributions off the bench to extend its lead to double digits in the final quarter and walk away with the 14-point win.
Harper finished with 26 points and went 12 for 15 at the free-throw line. He pulled down five rebounds.
“(Harper) had a good offensive night, but when they came in and wanted to get to their big man, he challenged them and guarded him,” McMillin said.
As for Harper’s success at the line, he added, “That’s what we try to do. That’s the easiest way to get points on the board.”
Jordan Hett recorded 21 points, while Zac Robson added five and Ethan Hett four.
The Warriors collected 23 rebounds, led by Jones with seven and Ethan Hett with six.
“We were on the boards pretty aggressively early on in the game,” McMillin said, addressing an area in which the Warriors struggled last season. “It wasn’t a problem area, not that we won’t work on it.”
McMillin said he was most pleased to see his players embracing their individual roles and playing together as a team.
“Guys just stepped up and did what we asked them to do,” he said. “It was a good team win.”
Coming —The Warriors are scheduled to play in the Marion Classic Monday through Saturday, with pool play games at 7 p.m. Tuesday versus Peabody and at 5:30 p.m. Friday vs. Remington.
The teams will play for placement Saturday.