The second-seeded Marion Warriors used a team effort to defeat top-seeded White City, 42-33, to win the 2013 Cougar Classic Saturday.
“We’ve got to have good balance, and we’ve really been emphasizing that and really trying to work toward that, and I thought that was probably pretty key,” coach Jeff McMillin said.
The Warriors opened the championship contest with a 9-0 run fueled by a stifling Marion defense that forced White City turnovers.
The Huskies’ first point came at the charity stripe at the 3:20 mark. Jordan Hett and Jacob Harper capped Marion’s scoring during the quarter for a 13-5 Warrior lead.
Harper free throws at the start of the second quarter gave Marion a 15-5 lead, but the Huskies responded with a 5-0 run to pull within five points at the 6:00 mark.
After a Hett basket 30 seconds later, the rest of the points for both teams came at the free throw line and gave Marion a 20-14 advantage at halftime.
Zac Robson scored to open the third period, but Marion later had trouble making shots (finishing at 28 percent from the field), and a 7-0 surge enabled the Huskies to draw within 22-21 at 5:10.
“(White City is) a good team, and we maybe gave up a little bit too much of the dribble drive,” McMillin said.
But Hett, Robson and Austin Pedersen answered with baskets that extended the Warriors’ lead to 30-21. The third quarter ended with Marion leading, 30-23.
“Down the stretch, we really got into a battle on the boards, and that’s what I was telling them to do,” McMillin said. “You might not be able to get the boards, but you can always battle.”
The Huskies never pulled closer to the Warriors than five points in the fourth quarter. Harper scored 10 of the Warriors’ final 12 points on the way to a game-high 20 points.
“It was a game where there was a lot of adversity, and it was a game where we kind of had to grind out a win,” McMillin said. “We had to find a way to win. Our shots weren’t falling very well, and we had to turn to defense to win it for us.”
Hett joined Harper in double-digit scoring with 11 points. Both Harper and Hett earned all-tournament honors.
The Warriors are now 11-1 overall.
Marion 75, Solomon 65
It was a rough start for Marion in Friday’s contest against third-seeded Solomon. The game began with Marion on the short end of a 12-2 score three minutes into the opening period.
Free throws by Jordan Hett and Jacob Harper helped keep the Warriors in the game, and an Austin Pedersen three-point basket with 1:32 left brought Marion within five at 15-10. The quarter ended with a 17-11 Gorilla lead.
Taylor Heidebrecht scored from behind the arc 15 seconds into the second quarter, and the Warriors later surged with an 8-0 run to narrow Solomon’s lead to 23-22 at the 4:29 mark.
Harper and Hett accounted for the remainder of the Warriors’ points in the quarter, and a Harper basket at 1:45 evened the score at 31. Hett scored 30 seconds later for a 33-31 lead, but Solomon free throws evened the score at 33 at halftime.
Solomon scored first after the break, but the Warriors launched a 9-0 surge for a 42-35 lead at the 4:30 mark.
The teams traded scores, but a three-point Gorilla basket at the buzzer narrowed Marion’s lead to 52-50 heading into the final quarter of play.
The two teams continued to trade points. The game was tied at 60 with 3:26 to play. Marion pulled ahead, 63-60, on a three-point basket by Hett.
After two free throws from Harper gave Marion a 65-61 lead with 2:23 to play, Hett scored the Warriors’ final 10 points to nail down the 10-point victory.
“It was just an extremely hard-fought game,” coach Jeff McMillin said. “(Solomon was) very big and very athletic and maybe the best team we’ve played all year. We really stepped up to a challenge and gutted it out. We played big in a big game.”
Marion shot 38 percent from the field (24-64) and 71 percent from the charity stripe (22-31).
Hett led the Warriors with 35 points; Harper added 26.
Marion 75, Elyria Christian 28
First round, Tuesday
The Warriors held the seventh-seeded Elyria Eagles to just five points in the opening quarter and ended the night with a 47-point rout.
“The biggest things we had to do tonight were get the tempo of the game going fast and not regress in our progress,” coach Jeff McMillin said. “We had moments where we forgot those things, but overall I feel that is what we were able to do.”
The Eagles jumped to 3-0 lead, but baskets by Jordan Hett and Taylor Heidebrecht quickly shifted the score in Marion’s favor. The Warriors never trailed again, going on an 11-0 run before Elyria managed a second basket with 3:54 left in the opening quarter.
Marion inflated the margin with 12 unanswered points for a 23-5 lead at the end of the first period. Tough defense contributed to Marion’s scoring by forcing multiple Elyria turnovers that led to easy points.
“We came into the game emphasizing the need to push the tempo on offense and on defense,” McMillin said. “We felt that our defensive pressure was better than (Elyria’s) ball-handling, so we really made it a point to pressure the ball and trap whenever we could.”
Marion continued to add to its lead in the second quarter, aided by Elyria turnovers and missed Eagle shots. The half ended with Marion boasting a 24-point lead, 38-14.
Ethan Hett, Jordan Hett, Jacob Harper, Zac Robson and Wiley Lundy all put points on the board for Marion in the third quarter. Harper contributed eight points in the period to pace the Warriors.
“The boys relaxed a little bit in the second and third quarters, and we began to wear (the Eagles) down after halftime,” McMillin said.
The Eagles managed only three points in the third to trail 60-17 going into the final quarter.
Marion shot 54 percent from the field (33-61). Harper scored a game-high 25 points to pace the Warriors, followed by Hett with 12.
Coming––The Warriors will compete at Council Grove Friday before hosting Canton-Galva next Tuesday.