ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ANDREW JOST
All the programs still read the same-every player’s number matched up-but the Marion boys looked like a group of strangers in the first half of Tuesday’s game against Wichita Trinity.
After getting clobbered in the first two quarters, a frustrated Marion team left its home floor trailing 32-17. But in the second half, a newly determined group of Warriors earned their opponent’s respect in a 59-51 loss.
“We pretty much let them dictate what they wanted to do offensively in the first half,” Marion coach Rex Ostmeyer said after his team’s second league loss of the season. “We didn’t take anything away.”
From the first whistle, the Warriors came out flat, quickly falling behind the larger and more aggressive Knights.
Trinity hit two 3-pointers to roll ahead 18-13. Marion shot 33 percent from the field, but during the quarter that followed, things got ugly.
Joe Svitak’s 2-point bucket at the end of the first quarter proved to be the last one Marion saw for what seemed an eternity. The team earned only four points from the free-throw line, missing 11 field goals attempts-seven of which were 3-pointers-before halftime.
After 10 attempts, Marion had yet to complete a shot from beyond the arc. Trinity, however, had already hit four.
“I was pretty disappointed with the fact that we just didn’t run the offense and let the offense work and get easier shots,” Ostmeyer said. “We settled for 3s, and when they weren’t going, we got frustrated.
“That’s not how you play basketball.”
Trailing by 15 points, Ostmeyer was blunt with his team in the locker room at halftime.
“Either you’re going to come out and you’re going to fight, or you’re going to get blown out,” he said.
As the third quarter got under way, Jared Hett finally hit Marion’s first 3-pointer-with 6:57 on the clock. All the same, the Knights continued to extend their lead.
With 3:35 left in the third, Trinity held a 20-point advantage-its largest of the game.
But when Nickolas Hett hit his first 3-pointer of the night 20 seconds later, the Warriors finally found the fire they so desperately needed, finishing the quarter on a 10-2 run.
As the Knights feverishly worked to stall time, a revived Marion team steadily climbed back into the ballgame.
The Warriors tore into the final quarter, scoring seven unanswered points in the first 1:20, sitting only seven points from the lead, 44-37.
Marion was breathing down Trinity’s neck through the final two minutes. With 1:40 left, Tyler Stubenhofer hit his second 3-pointer, bringing the score 48-51.
But in the end, that was as close as Marion could cut it.
“Finally in the second half we decided to fight a little bit more,” Ostmeyer said. “It worked for a while, but we dug ourselves too big of a hole.”
The Knights earned no points from the field in the last quarter, but they didn’t need to. Trinity scored 15 points from 13 trips to the free-throw line during the final seven minutes.
“We just decided to see if they could make free-throws,” Ostmeyer said. “You can make a decision-they’re either going to run time off the clock, or you can try and be proactive and make them win the game at the line.”
“They made the ones they needed to down the stretch.”
Jared Hett led Marion’s scoring with 19, followed by Clayton Chamberland with nine.
The Warriors completed 19 of 60 field goal attempts (32 percent) on the night. They were 7 for 27 from 3-point range.
With the loss, the Warriors’ Cottonwood Valley League record falls to 8-2 with an overall record of 11-7.
“It was going to take a mammoth effort to come back, and we gave it a shot,” Ostmeyer said. “We just came up a little bit short.”
After their game at Council Grove on Tuesday, the Warriors will host Chase County Thursday for their final regular-season game.