ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ANDREW JOST
Extending their undefeated league run to 6-0, the Marion boys (8-5) found confidence on the road Tuesday as they outlasted Salina Sacred Heart, 54-47, in a seesaw battle that was sealed at the line.
The Warriors were perfect from the free-throw line, knocking down all eight attempts. Six of those eight points came during the final 42 seconds of play.
After a frustrating week at the Trojan Classic in Hillsboro, coach Rex Ostmeyer was pleased to have his team back into an offensive rhythm.
“We got a few easy baskets, especially early, and that got us going a little bit, he said.
“We shot 48 percent from the floor, which is about 18 to 20 percent higher than we’ve been shooting for the last five or six games. A lot of it was just making the extra pass and getting the ball inside.”
The Knights (3-10) gave Marion more than enough trouble in a game that had 11 ties and eight lead exchanges.
“They came out shooting the ball well, which I figured they would,” Ostmeyer said. “People tend to shoot well in their own gym, especially early in the games.”
Under strong offensive shooting, both teams hit the ground running at tip off.
“We had a pretty high-scoring first quarter-we were up 18-16 at the end of the first,” Ostmeyer said.
With that, Marion’s coach was quick to highlight senior Joe Svitak.
“We got a lot of offense from Joe,” he said. “He had eight points in that first quarter on a lot of good passes inside.”
Svitak, who entered the contest averaging five points per game, scored 10 points on 5 for 6 shooting.
But as play resumed in the second quarter, it appeared Marion might fall back into last week’s offensive rut as the Warriors faltered through four scoreless minutes and quickly fell behind the Knights 27-18.
“Then one of our freshman, Jason Hett, came in and hit a 3 the first time he touched the ball to kind of spark us,” Ostmeyer said.
With fuel to burn, the Warriors smoked through the rest of the second quarter on an 11-0 run, recapturing the lead from Sacred Heart 29-27 with 1:20 left.
“I wasn’t real pleased with our defense at halftime,” Ostmeyer said.
“It wasn’t that we were doing anything majorly wrong, we’d made a couple of mistakes.”
Dissatisfied, Ostmeyer tested his team’s second half performance.
“I challenged them at halftime that I didn’t want to give up more than nine points in the third or fourth quarters,” he said. “I wanted to hold them to single digits in each of the last two quarters.”
The Warriors just missed Ostmeyer’s goal, holding the Knights to 19 points in the second half.
“The second half, defensively, was right where I wanted it to be.”
Overall, Ostmeyer was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I think it was the first time in a while that I really felt like we played like we were capable of playing on offense,” he said.
“We were playing with a lot more confidence.”
Leading the way offensively for the Warriors was Jared Hett with 12, followed by Dale Vogel and Svitak with 10. Tyler Stubenhofer led with four assists, seven rebounds and five steals.
The Warriors were back in action last night, taking on the Cougars at Centre in a non-league, intra-county matchup.