Contrary to its high scoring output in games of late, the Marion boys’ basketball team had to win Monday more so with defense and free throw shooting than with fast breaks and threes.
The Warriors fell behind to Halstead 5-1 early, but tied the game with more than a minute left in the first quarter. Marion toughened its defense in the second quarter, holding Halstead to seven points to lead 20-12 at halftime.
Both teams scored 10 points in the third quarter, and Marion led by 10 after Grif Case made a layup in the first minute of the fourth.
Halstead guard Anthony Santiago began the Dragons’ comeback the next play, with a slash to the bucket and a three on the next possession. Minutes later, Santiago closed the gap to two after five more points in two possessions. He finished with 18 points.
“He was as good of a catch-and-shoot player that we’ve played against,” Marion head coach Jeff McMillin said.
Leading 36-34 with 47 seconds left, the Warriors again stiffened their defense as the Dragons tried to get the ball to Santiago. McMillin credited Taylor Heidebrecht for chasing Santiago off multiple-screen sets the Dragons used.
“We were going to try all we could give not to let him get that last shot,” McMillin said.
Santiago did get a close-range shot off, but the ball rimmed out and officials determined the ball touched Marion’s James Jones last.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Heidebrecht blocked Santiago’s shot, causing a loose ball almost every player dove for.
The Warriors won possession after a jump-ball call, but Zach Robson unknowingly ran the baseline on the inbound after the dead-ball call.
Halstead regained possession, and on the next play, Heidebrecht poked the ball loose from behind a Dragons player, causing another pileup and subsequent jump ball.
Halstead once again held possession, with three seconds left. Tim Knolla then tipped and stole the inbounds pass, and was fouled in the process. With less than a second left, he made two free throws to give the Warriors a 38-34 win.
“It was two teams that wanted to win,” McMillin said. “Two teams that didn’t want to stop playing, and we’re fortunate enough to be playing again.”
The Warriors’ next sub-state game comes against undefeated No. 1 seed Hesston at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
“We’re going to prepare for our next team and we’re not going to be afraid of them,” McMillin said. “It’s a tough test. We’ve got to prepare well, we’ve got to play well.”
Robson, 10; Knolla, 9; Case, 5; Heidebrecht, 5; Jones, 4; Brett Voth, 3; Jacob Baldwin, 2.