An explosive third-quarter run was the perfect answer to a frustrating first half in a must-win finale of the Marion Classic for the host Warriors.
The Warriors would save face and win their third game 53-30 over Peabody-Burns after dropping their first two games of the tournament.
“We identified the first two games as winnable, and they were winnable,” head coach Jeff McMillin said. “Tonight was a step beyond that: We had to win it. There was no other alternative for it.”
Facing Peabody-Burns in a matchup of winless teams at the Marion Classic, McMillin emphasized to his team that they had to win, and that they were going to do so by getting the ball inside. He placed a moratorium on 3-point shooting to start the game.
“We wanted our offense to be something where we weren’t passing around the perimeter and just settling,” he said. “That made us real complacent. We wanted to get rid of the complacency.”
After a 15-13 half, a 14-0 burst in the third quarter helped Marion broke through for the first time this season on its way to a comfortable victory.
“We gave up 13 points in the first half and turned them over five times,” McMillin said. “You think that’d be a recipe for a big lead, but it was only 2 points because we shot 6-for-23.”
Neither team scored for the game’s first three minutes.
Marion picked up its intensity in the third quarter and was able to get fast break points and force turnovers by pressuring full-court.
“Right when we got those steals, that got the confidence up,” McMillin said. “Then we couldn’t miss anything. It’s funny the way that works: When it’s easy and it’s fun, it’ll go in.”
Marion saw some contributions from a couple of freshmen, Evann Heidebrecht and Sam Zinn. Heidebrecht looked particularly assertive, scoring 7 points in just over 12 minutes of action.
The Warriors were led by Nicholas Stuchlik with 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting, and Mason Pedersen added 12. Dylan Pippin had 6 points and a team-high 6 rebounds.
Pippin was named to the all-tournament roster.
It was their first win of the season and the tournament, in which they suffered tight losses to Belle Plaine and Remington 41-38 and 44-35. McMillin said he felt like they could have won both contests.
“We lost close games playing horribly,” he said. “If the ball was going in like it was, and we were playing like we were (Saturday), with the energy we had, we would have won those first two games.”
The Warriors play Haven on Thursday at home.