The Marion High School Lady Warrior basketball team would have preferred a better outcome than losses to Berean Academy, Eureka, and Belle Plaine in the Marion Classic tournament at Marion Sports and Aquatics Center this past week.
A look at statistics, rather than the scoreboard, provides evidence that the young Marion team, driven largely by underclassmen, made some positive strides through the course of the tournament.
The Lady Warriors held their own early in the game Thursday against Berean Academy, trailing 10-9 at the end of the first quarter and 22-17 at the half. But Marion turnovers and lack of rebounding took their toll in the second half as Berean cruised after intermission to a 47-27 win.
Whitney Gordon shouldered the scoring load for Marion with 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field and 2-for-4 at the free throw line. The next closest scorer was Kaelyn Thierolf with 5.
Marion shot 32 percent from the field, 29 percent from the charity stripe, and had no 3-point baskets. They turned the ball over 33 times and were outrebounded, 30 to 59. The Lady Warriors scored just four second-chance points after rebounds.
Eureka was Marion’s opponent Friday, and the Lady Tornadoes streaked past a slow-starting Lady Warrior offense plagued by turnovers to a 19-6 lead. Marion kept pace with Eureka through the third quarter, closing the margin to single digits at 44-35 before fading in the fourth quarter to lose, 57-43.
While senior Gordon again led the team in scoring with 17, the Lady Warriors had a more balanced attack, collecting 10 points from Megan Richmond, 9 points from Katey Ehrlich, and 6 points from Kelli Hess. Marion’s free-throw shooting percentage more than doubled to 62 percent, with 13 of 21 free throws made. The Lady Warriors committed 33 turnovers for a second consecutive game, but turned around the rebounding advantage by collecting 49 boards to 45 for Eureka.
“We played hard, but we have to learn to play under control,” Marion head coach Randy Savage said. “We were 10 points down, and we had three trips in a row where we were just out of control. We tried to go one dribble too many, two dribbles too far, one pass too many.”
Savage blamed the lack of control for the excessive number of turnovers in each of the first two games, as well as the early deficit that proved to be the deciding factor in the game.
“They had a 15-point lead at one point in the first quarter, and from that point on we beat them by one,” Savage said.
Marion’s third game in three days was Saturday against Belle Plaine, who had two nights off before their Friday night loss to Peabody-Burns.
Belle Plaine appeared more rested as they took control at the outset, forging a 9-2 lead before Ehrlich scored a free throw and a 10-foot jumper to close within 4 points, and a pass from Ehrlich to Richmond led to a fast-break score that pulled Marion to within two, 12-10, at the end of the first quarter.
Marion tied the game twice in the opening minute of the second quarter, but turnover troubles plagued the Lady Warriors again as Belle Plaine moved to take a 28-18 halftime lead.
Belle Plaine appeared poised to coast to an easy win with a 53-37 lead with 4 minutes left in the game. The Lady Warriors wouldn’t give up so easily.
A free throw by Meierhoff and a 3-pointer by Gordon cut the lead to 53-41 at the 3-minute mark. Ehrlich was fouled on a fast-break bucket and converted the free throw to draw Marion to within 9 points, 53-44, at 2:42. Seven seconds later, Richmond stole the ball, was fouled, and sank two free throws to make the score 53-46. After a charging penalty against Belle Plaine, Gordon swished a long-range 3-pointer from the right side to trim the lead to four, 53-49, at 2:08. The Lady Warrior rally stalled at that point, as the Lady Dragons held on for the win, 56-51.
Savage was pleased with the tenacity the Lady Warriors exhibited during their comeback attempt, and suggested it was an example for the team to emulate early in games.
“We’ve just got to start like it’s 3 minutes to go,” Savage said.
Gordon had her second 17-point game of the tournament, followed by Meierhoff with 10, Thierolf with 8, and Hess with 6.
Marion’s shooting improved to 40 percent from the field against the Lady Dragons, and the Lady Warriors cut down significantly on turnovers, committing 20 miscues compared with 33 in each of the first two games.
“The scoring is there, we need to take better care of the ball. They are smart enough to know what they need to do, we just have to get it all put together,” Savage said.
Gordon, the tournament’s high scorer, was named to the all-tournament team. Ehrlich won the individual free-throw shooting contest. Gordon and Meierhoff were named to the tournament’s all-academic team.
The Lady Warriors have the week off before traveling Tuesday to Hillsboro to face the Lady Trojans.