ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The Marion Warriors posted a royal 52-47 win over Nickerson Friday night in front of a full house at the Queen of Courts festivities.
With a strong second half effort, the Warriors earned their first Mid Central Activities Association victory.
“It’s exciting,” coach Daryl Enos said. “It’s probably as huge of a win as we’ve had all season.”
But nothing comes easy for the Warriors, who trailed 12-6 after one quarter. That deficit swelled to 10 points on three occasions, the last being 20-10 with 4:04 left in the half.
“A lot of that was definitely our turnovers,” Enos said. “When you get turnovers you don’t get any offense, and our offense in the first half was not what we worked on in practice.”
Marion still trailed 26-17 at halftime, but the second half proved to be a new day for the Warriors.
After a pair of free throws by Nickerson, Marion played its best basketball in quite some time, scorching the Panthers with 14 straight points to vault to a 31-28 lead with 3:45 left in the third quarter.
Enos said good old-fashioned hard work was the key.
“When we broke the huddle at halftime, one of the girls said, ‘Let’s play with some passion-aren’t we tired of losing?'” Enos said.
Nickerson scored four of the next five points to tie the game at 32 as the third quarter ended.
“Between the third and fourth quarter, I told them it’ll come down to who will be more aggressive on defense, staying away from fouls and staying away from turnovers,” Enos said. “That’s one thing we talk about over and over and that’s the fact that defense will win you games.”
Nickerson grabbed a quick four-point lead and still led by four, 40-36, with 5:50 to play.
That’s when Sarah Williams took over, scoring five of her 11 points in the next minute to put Marion back on top 41-40.
Nickerson led one more time at 45-43 with just 3:16 to play before the Warriors stepped up their defense.
A steal and driving layup by Megan Hudson, followed by back-court violation by Nickerson, swung momentum squarely on the Warriors’ side.
Leann Thomas canned a pair of free throws and scored on a put-back to give Marion a 49-47 lead just 1:07 remaining.
Hudson added a free throw and Allie Maddox capped the game with a lay-in with two second remaining.
Maddox led Marion with 15 points and Thomas added 8 points and eight rebounds.
The Warriors hit only 32 percent (16-50) from the field, but a solid 17 of 25 (68 percent) from the charity stripe.
“We’ll take that any night,” Enos said. “That’s good for us.”
Hudson registered nine of Marion’s 17 steals, as Marion forced 30 Panther turnovers.
With the win, Marion improved to 1-5 in MCAA play and 6-9 overall.
“We’re at the bottom of the run, but we got a win and that’s all there is to it,” Enos said. “We earned it the old-fashioned way. We worked harder than the other team in the second half.”
Smoky Valley-A poor third quarter led to a 66-49 loss at Smoky Valley on Tuesday. The Vikings outscored the Warriors 31-16 in that decisive period.
“We just didn’t stop them in the third quarter,” coach Daryl Enos said. “It’s pretty hard to overcome getting outscored by 16 points in one quarter.
“We can’t afford to have many more like that.”
Initially, it looked like the Warriors may be on the way to their first league victory when they took a 17-16 halftime lead to the locker room.
“In the first half, our full-court press worked pretty well,” he said. “I was happy with that.”
But shooting woes continue to haunt the Warriors, who hit just four of 17 shots (24 percent) in the first half shots. Nine-for-12 shooting from the free-throw line kept them in the lead.
Inflicting the most damage in the third period was Jenni Pihl, who made five 3-point baskets in eight attempts on her way to a game-high 17 points.
“We didn’t deal with that very well,” Enos said. “We missed a couple of shots to keep the score tied and it kind of blew open from there.”
Marion cut the lead to single digits early in the fourth quarter, but that was as close as the Warriors would come.
“I thought our defense was better,” Enos said. “But the first quarter we were short on scoring and the third quarter we were short on defense.
“But we’ve done that several times now this year.”
Sarah Williams led the Warrior with 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
With the loss, Marion falls to 0-5 in Mid-Central Activities Association and 5-9 overall. Smoky Valley improved to 4-1 and 8-6.
“Our effort is still there,” Enos said. “I came away feeling pretty good about things. We just need to get some ‘w’s’ on the board.”
Coming-The Warriors were were scheduled to host state-ranked Hesston on Tuesday before traveling to Lyons on Friday for a contest with the Lions.
Both games are league games.