ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ANDREW JOST
The Marion boys came away empty handed after the final round of Trojan Classic in Hillsboro Saturday, losing fifth place to Sunrise Academy, 63-41.
After struggling through the first two rounds of the tournament, Jared Hett gave Marion’s offense an early boost of confidence with a 3-pointer on the Warriors’ first possession. Through the next six minutes, Marion and Sunrise exchanged leads five times.
After battling their way through a defensively intense first quarter, the Warriors hung tough under an 11-7 deficit. But in the second quarter, Sunrise pulled the rug out from under Marion’s feet.
Marion was able to complete only one of 12 shots from the floor as a more aggressive Buffalo defense unsettled the Warriors.
“It seemed like this game was very much like the other two games we played in this tournament,” coach Rex Ostmeyer said. “We got off to a little bit better start-not a whole lot-but about the time we started to struggle on offense, they started hitting 3s.”
Riding back-to-back 3-pointers, the Sunrise offense heated up to close the final 3:45 of the first half with a 10-3 run, extending the lead to 25-14 by intermission.
“Our offensive execution, whether it’s running the offense or making shots or whatever, just can’t win scoring 14 points in half,” Ostmeyer said.
Clearly frustrated, he continued, “It’s just little things.
“Right now, our problem against these good teams that are physical and make you work is that we just don’t execute the little things nearly well enough to get open shots.”
As the second half progressed, the Warriors’ misery grew steadily.
“We’d try to play them zone and they hit who knows how many threes,” Ostmeyer said. “Then we went to man and they started pounding it inside and hurting us there”
Sunrise’s 6-foot-2-inch senior Alex Melugin was one major source of Marion’s pain. Melugin scored 17 of his 24 points during the second half. Of those points, nine came from 3-point range.
As time wore on, Marion fought to compete against Sunrise’s size and experience.
“Sunrise Academy is an incredibly seasoned team, probably as good as anybody in this tournament,” Ostmeyer said.
“When you’re not as big, you just don’t have nearly the margin of error-when you’re not in the right position, you get beat.”
Unable to control the Buffaloes, the Warriors were outscored 23-15 in the third quarter and 15-12 in the fourth.
“It wouldn’t be nearly as frustrating for me as a coach if I thought we just didn’t have any offensive players,” Ostmeyer said. “But we’ve got guys who can shoot, and they’re doing the job in practice.
“We do the right things in practice, but somehow we’re not getting that from the practice court to the games.”
Jared Hett carried the Warriors with 16 points, scoring seven of 15 shots from the field, two of four from 3-point range.
For Sunrise, Melugin led with 24, followed by Bret Michael with 15.
“It’s just a day-by-day thing,” said Ostmeyer. “We just have to get better every day-that’s all there is to it.”
After Tuesday night’s rescheduled game at Sacred Heart, the Warriors (7-5) have off until Feb. 3 when they’ll take on the Cougars at Centre.
Belleville-After a solid loss to No. 1 seeded Hesston on Monday, disappointment followed the Warriors to their second-round contest against the Belleville Buffaloes as poor shooting continued to plague Marion in a 52-41 loss.
“The first half was just miserable,” said coach Rex Ostmeyer after his team’s loss. “We looked like we had absolutely no confidence in our shot. We were just kind of throwing it up there and praying that it would go in.
“You”re not going to make it if you’re only hoping.”
Marion’s offense started out ice cold, scoring its first and only field goal of the quarter with only 2:53 left to play. Tyler Smith’s two free throws were the only other points Marion could manage.
By the end of the period, the Warriors had completed only one of nine shots from the field, which left them trailing, 17-4.
“Our shot chart in the last three games is scary,” Ostmeyer said. “We’re missing 15 to 18 shots a game inside the lane.”
Marion’s frustration continued through the second quarter as shot after shot shanked off the rim. By halftime, the Warriors were being smothered beneath a 21-point deficit.
“A 31-10 halftime margin-you’re not going to win too many games if you score 10 points in a half,” Ostmeyer said.
“There weren’t any major adjustments or anything like that that needed to be made, we just needed to play basketball. The name of the game is to put the ball in the hole, and at some point in time you’ve just got to do it.
“In the second half, that’s what we did.”
Marion’s offense found life after halftime. During the second half the Warriors outscored Belleville 31-21.
“We went primarily man defense in the second half and took their shooters out of the game a little bit by forcing them to put the ball on the floor,” Ostmeyer said.
“During the second half we finally just started playing. It’s easy to do when you’re down 20, but we started playing and relaxing and putting the ball in the hole.”
Despite their efforts, the Warriors’ second half performance was too little too late.
Even after Nickolas Hett hit his third 3-pointer as time expired in the fourth quarter, Belleville remained safely in command of the lead.
In addition to their shooting struggles, the Warriors were missing 6-foot-2-inch junior Dale Vogel, who missed the first two rounds of the tournament due to illness.
On the night, the Warriors completed 14 of 51 (27 percent) shots from the field, three of 12 (25 percent) were from 3-point range.
The Buffaloes were able to complete 49 percent of their shots from the field with an impressive seven of nine (78 percent) from 3-point range.
Leading the way for Marion was Nickolas Hett with 13, followed closely by Tyler Stubenhofer with 11.
For Belleville, Clark McDonald hit four threes and finished with 16 points.
“We can build on the second half I suppose, but we’re just going to have to go back to work,” Ostmeyer said.
“We’ve just got to get some confidence and figure out how to score-it’s as simple as that. We’ve got to get in a rhythm offensively, that’s about all there is to it.”
Hesston-In Monday’s opening round the Trojan Classic, the Warriors found strong opposition in a solid and quick Hesston team, losing to the Swathers 59-38.
Marion fell behind early and never gained the lead against the state-ranked Swather squad.
For the night, Marion connected on 12 of 47 shots from the field for 26 percent.
The Warriors were a dismal one for 10 on 3-point shots.
On the other end of the court, Hesston attempted 44 shots from the field and hit 20 for 45 percent. In addition, the Swathers earned 16 points from the free-throw line.
Jared Hett led the Warriors in scoring with 11. Tyler Smith added eight.
For the Swathers, Grady Pauls scored 15 points, nine of which came from three-point range.