The Marion High School Warriors opened the basketball season Friday by soundly defeating Trinty Catholic of Hutchinson 51-32 at USD 408 Sports and Aquatic Center.
Jacob Harper gave Marion an early 2-0 lead on a spinning drive to the basket, and the teams traded baskets for the next three minutes. Jordan Hett cut down the lane for a lay up to make the score 8-6 with just over two minutes remaining in the first quarter. With that basket, Marion took a lead it would never relinquish.
Marion opened in a man-to-man defense, but changed early to a two-one-two zone that kept the Celtic offense in check.
“We switched to a zone pretty early in the game because I didn’t like the way our man looked,” Marion head coach Jeff McMillin said. “I knew we could fall back on the zone, and it didn’t hurt that their main option was trying to get the ball inside. We blanketed their post player pretty well.”
The zone helped to set up fast breaks for the Warriors, including back-to-back sprints with Hett feeding Taylor Heidebrecht for layups that increased the lead to 20-11 at halftime.
Harper, who led Marion scorers with 13 points, hit a five-foot jumper to start the second half. Three steals and a rebound by Mikael Antosyck were the catalysts for a Hett 3-pointer and a Heidebrecht layup that helped stretch the lead to 27-11 and prompted a Celtic timeout.
The Warriors’ defense continued to stymie Trinity Catholic, who scored only a single basket in the first five minutes of the half. A 10-0 Celtic run midway through the fourth quarter was the only time in the game the Warriors briefly lost control.
McMillin was pleased with the drive and focus displayed by the Warriors.
“I liked the way we played with a lot of intensity, a lot of energy, like we were excited to start a new season,” McMillin said.
When they weren’t streaking down the court for fast breaks, the Warriors displayed good discipline and movement on offense. McMillin said this was an important emphasis for the Warriors.
“Movement is one of the things we work on all the time,” McMillin said. “When they go on later in life and think about me, they’re going to hear me saying ‘Move without the basketball.’”
Overall, McMillin was pleased with the Warrior offense.
“Trinity is down a little bit — they lost a lot of offense, but their defense is still tough, and they played hard and pushed us around a little bit,” McMillin said. “We didn’t back down from it. I was happy we stood up to their pressure defense and were able to move the ball effectively against them and score.”
McMillin noted how Harper’s play influenced Marion’s performance.
“Jacob Harper is one of the leaders on our team, and when he’s positively into the game like he was, he’s somebody the rest of the team revolves around and looks to,” McMillin said.
Hett scored 11 points, a total McMillin suggested would be among his lowest this season.
“Jordan didn’t have the kind of game he expects himself to have shooting, but he played a great game defensively,” McMillin said.
Marion’s other leading scorers were Scott Jones with eight points, and Heidebrecht with six.
The Warriors will play Thursday at 8:15 p.m. against Berean Academy in the Marion Classic tournament at Marion Sports and Aquatics Center. Friday at 8:15 p.m. Marion will play Eureka.