In its first game of the season, the Marion Warriors boys’ basketball team received a formidable test from league rival Southeast of Saline.
After a first half in which the Warriors battled and induced fouls to stay in the game, the Spartans’ constant ball pressure, hot shooting touch, and considerable size advantage put the game away in the second half. The Warriors ultimately lost the game 59-31, thanks to a 30-10 advantage for SES over the final two quarters.
“I told them I don’t care if we’re the smaller team or that we’re the younger team, less-expereinced team, what I do care about is that we’re the hardest working team, and for the first half, I think that we hung in as well as we could with good effort and good intensity,” head coach Jeff McMillin said.
Senior Brett Voth led the Warriors with 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting and 9 rebounds, while going 5-of-7 from the free-throw line. Nicholas Stuchlik added 5 points and 10 rebounds, while Jacob Baldwin had 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists, which was a team-high.
Marion got out to a 5-1 lead in a slow start for both teams. Marion played zone defense out of the gate in an effort to quell Southeast’s size advantage. The Spartans had four players on its roster at 6-foot-4 or taller. The Warriors were able to reduce the Spartans’ offense to a game of perimeter hot potato, as the team was left passing from one corner, to the top of the key, to the other corner, contemplating open shots as Marion defenders raced out to cover.
The problem was when Southeast started shooting.
Easton Montgomery and Zach Montgomery led the way as a barrage of 3-pointers put separation between the two teams early.
“They took what we were challenging them to do, shoot outside rather than inside, and they did fairly well,” McMillin said. “They hit six threes, and that’s tough … but I was telling the boys, ‘Remember what we’re surrendering. We’re surrendering what they do second-best.’”
After exiting the first quarter behind 19-9, Marion dug in to compete in the second quarter, the closest quarter of the night.
Behind an offensive attack from Voth and feisty interior play from Stuchlik, Baldwin, and Dylan Pippin, the Warriors were able to climb back in the game and cut the lead to 5 points. The key for the Warriors was getting the Spartans into foul trouble.
“We were not the bigger team, but our post guys outworked them,” McMillin said. “Their guys were probably a little more experienced, a little bigger, probably more what you’d call polished players, but I think our post players outplayed theirs in the first half and portions of the second half.”
The Spartans’ full-court press was a menace for the Warriors to reckon with. Marion turned the ball over 24 times. Southeast’s 5-foot-3 reserve point guard Jess Koehn was particularly active defensively.
The Marion deficit ballooned in the second half as a 12-4 third quarter was part of a long Spartans run that put the game out of reach.
“As the game wore on, the athleticism and size and experience wore on us a little bit and our focus waned a lot, but for our first game with a lot of young new faces, it wasn’t completely lacking of what I was looking for,” McMillin said.
The coach was optimistic going forward as the team prepared for the Marion Classic, which began Tuesday with a game against Peabody-Burns. The results of that game were not available as of press time.