Red-hot defense led Marion to a 36-20 victory at Berean Friday in a low-scoring battle between two Warrior teams.
Marion, ranked eighth in Class 3A, held the home team to one point in the opening quarter on the way to a 9-1 lead.
“(Berean) like(s) to play a low-possession game,”coach Jeff McMillin said. “We knew that if we wanted to have a chance, we needed to really lock down on the defense and be strong on the offensive end because we knew it was going to be low scoring.
“I think we gave our best defensive effort of the year.”
Marion got on the board with a Taylor Heidebrecht free throw at 5:11. The game’s first field goal came five minutes into the period when Jacob Harper scored off a steal.
Berean scored its only point of the quarter from the charity stipe 18 seconds later. Another Harper score, followed by two baskets from Jordan Hett gave Marion its 9-1 lead.
Two baskets by Hett to start the second quarter gave Marion a 13-3 lead with 4:43 left in the half. Wiley Lundy added two free throws for a 15-7 Marion lead at intermission.
“We knew the slower was more in (Berean’s) favor,” McMillin said. “The faster it got—as long as it stayed in our control—was more in our favor. So we wanted to get as many shots as we possibly could,” McMillin said. “As it turned out, our defense stepped up to the challenge even though it was a low-scoring game.”
Marion outscored Berean 8-4 in the third quarter, with both offenses having difficulty getting shots to fall.
For the game, Marion shot 33 percent from the field (13-40).
“Some nights you have to win when shots aren’t falling, and so you have to fall back on something else,” McMillin said. “What we fell back on tonight was just playing hard. We knew that if we wanted to have a chance in a low-scoring game, we’d have to keep (Berean) off the boards. I think pretty consistently we battled for (the boards).”
Harper scored on a three-point play at the 4:45 mark, and Lundy and Austin Pedersen hit back-to-back baskets to give Marion a 23-11 lead going into the final period.
Ethan Hett opened the fourth quarter with a three-point basket at 6:26 and followed with a free throw 30 seconds later.
An 8-0 run fueled by defense gave Marion its largest lead of the night, 35-13, with 2:59 left to play.
“We were very well in-tuned on defense and working really hard,” McMillin said. “I was very, very proud of all the boys who played.”
Harper led Marion with 11 points, followed by Hett with 10.
Canton-Galva––Marion controlled Tuesday’s game from the start, exploding to an 80-26 victory over Canton-Galva.
“We came in knowing we probably had the more skilled team, and the biggest emphasis that we had was that we’ve got to play our best and not to worry about the level of the other team,” coach Jeff McMillin said.
“We just wanted to play our best, and I think a lot of it was spurred on by the fact that we wanted to get past last Friday.”
Putting the Council Grove loss behind them, the Warriors burst out of the gate with a 17-0 run thanks to a stifling defense that took advantage of poor ball-handling by Canton-Galva.
Marion set a fast tempo for the game.
“We knew the slower the game went, the closer it got to (the Eagles’) favor,” McMillin said. “The faster it was, it was more in our favor. So we wanted to create that pace on offense and defense, and I think that led to a lot of the defensive aggressiveness that we had.”
The Eagles got on the board with a basket at 3:40, but Marion led 26-8 at the end of the quarter.
Jordan Hett contributed six consecutive points off steals and 10 altogether by the end of the first period.
The Warriors continued the trend in the second quarter for a 51-14 halftime advantage.
Jacob Harper scored 15 points in the second quarter on his way to a game-high 21.
McMillin cleared the Warrior bench midway through the third quarter, outscoring Canton-Galva 15-8 to take a 66-22 lead into the final period.
With a running clock in place, Marion surged to the 54-point victory, posting 56 percent shooting from the field (33-59).
“Offense looks real good when you have a lot of contributors,” McMillin said. “We had our two main go-to guys that put the ball in the basket pretty well, but we had other guys that stepped up and did it also.”
Four Warriors scored in double figures. Harper led with 21 points, followed by Hett with 16, Timothy Knolla 12 and Zach Robson 11.
“It was a balanced attack, and I think if we’re going to be successful toward the last quarter of the season into the post-season, we’re going to have to have balance,” McMillin said.
“So that’s what I was probably more happy with than the number of points was the balance of the points in the end and the confidence they had shooting the ball.”
Coming––The Warriors (4-1, 13-2) were scheduled to play at Ell-Saline (1-4, 6-9) Tuesday and will face Heart of America leader Bennington (6-0, 15-0) at home Friday at 7:30 p.m.
For a same-night report of the game, go to hillsborofreepress.com.