Down by as many as 10 points Friday against Bennington, the Marion High School Warriors captured the lead in the game’s final two minutes, and held on for a thrilling comeback road win, 62-59.
The Warriors had trimmed just 1 point off of a 10-point halftime deficit as they entered the fourth quarter, trailing 41-50.
Jordan Hett went to work immediately, stealing the ball on the Bulldogs’ opening position. Scott Jones took the pass to key the fast break, then returned it to Hett, who flipped the ball to Mikael Antosyck for the lay-in.
Following a Bennington score, Marion scored 6 consecutive points when Hett converted an old-fashioned 3-point play with a hoop and a free throw, and Jacob Harper dropped in a 3-point bomb from the left corner. That pulled the Warriors to within 3 points, 49-52, with 5 minutes, 9 seconds remaining.
A turnaround baseline jumper by Zach Weis at 2:32 gave Bennington a 58-54 lead, but Hett answered seconds later with a 3-ball that that cut the margin to 1, 57-58.
Bennington fumbled a rebound of an errant Harper 3-point attempt out of bounds. On the in-bounds play, Harper slipped into the lane to take a bounce pass from Jones and was fouled. Harper used all the rim on both free throw attempts, but got them to fall, and with only 1:29 remaining, Marion led 59-58.
After trading free throws, Hett broke the Bulldog press and lobbed a pass to Antosyck, who was fouled by Lane Thornhill with :04 remaining. Antosyck calmly sank both charity tosses.
Bennington tossed the ball in to Weis at half court, who then hit Derek Stanley streaking down the left side. Stanley released a long 3-point attempt for the tie, but missed, handing the Warriors the 62-59 win.
“They hit a lot of shots early. I don’t think we played poor defense, but to give them credit, they hit a lot of shots,” Marion head coach Jeff McMillin said.
“Even though we weren’t playing particularly well, we didn’t hang our heads, we kept playing hard, and that’s what gave us the opportunity to get back in the game.”
Defensive stands were critical to limit Bennington to 9 points in the final quarter, and McMillin was quick to praise the Warriors’ tenacity.
“When we needed stops at the end we buckled down and got them,” McMillin said.
A fourth-quarter collapse and loss Feb. 7 at home against Ell-Saline provided extra incentive for the Warriors to prevail against Bennington.
“We were tuned in and we were confident. They didn’t want that to happen again,” McMillin said. “A-plus for lessons learned from one game to the next.”
Hett put on his best offensive show of the season, scoring 30 points, but it was his defensive play that garnered the most praise from McMillin.
“It can get lost in the fact that he had a great scoring game that he played great defense. He was guarding their best player,” McMillin said. “He was coming off ball screens all night, constantly having to guard against dribble penetration, and he found the energy on both ends late in the game to hit big shots.”
Harper also had a big game with 21 points, and Antosyck scored 9.
The Warriors traveled Tuesday to Inman, and play a return match Friday against Bennington at USD 408 Sports and Aquatics Center.