The Marion High School Warriors stood toe-to-toe Friday with Class 3A third-ranked Moundridge through three quarters. In the fourth, the Wildcats turned up the heat, and ran away with a 66-45 victory at USD 408 Sports and Aquatics Center.
“It was a closer game than what that score indicated. We were within six or so at the end of the third quarter,” Marion head coach Jeff McMillin said.
Marion took an early 5-4 lead when Mikael Antoszyk drained a 3-point shot from the right side of the arc. Jacob Harper drove the baseline and slipped the ball over to Scott Jones, who scored to give Marion the lead once more, 9-8, with 3:43 remaining in the first quarter.
Moundridge countered with a 6 point run on consecutive baskets by Nick Vogts and Tyler Kaufman, and two free throws by Trey Unrau, to lead 14-9.
Warrior Jordan Hett ended the quarter with a flourish, spinning on the dribble around one defender and driving past another to pull Marion within 3, 13-16.
“We had a distinct game plan that we wanted to follow, and we followed it well, which kept us in the game,” McMillin said.
That game plan focused on keeping Wildcats other than Unrau from scoring. The senior guard tallied 10 points in the second quarter, scoring from all parts of the floor, but the Marion held the rest of the Wildcats to only 7 points.
Moundridge opened the second quarter with 8 consecutive points before Antozyck nailed another long 3-pointer to draw Marion within 8 points, 24-16. Harper hit a pull-up jumper from the free throw line to cut the lead to six, and with only :29 remaining in the half Hett drained a 3-point shot that drew loud cheers from the home crowd, as the Wildcat lead had been cut to 30-27.
Unrau calmed the crowd when he scored a 3-point shot with just :04 on the clock, giving Moundridge a 33-27 advantage at the half.
Harper drained another 3 at 5:51 in the third, bringing the Warriors as close as they would get, 30-33, for the rest of the game. Moundridge slowly but surely started to exert control, outscoring Marion 16-8 the remainder of the quarter, and headed into the final period leading 49-38.
In the fourth quarter, Marion’s strategy of keeping a lid on the Wildcat secondary scorers unraveled, as Daniel Ratzlaff alternated with Unrau to gradually pull away for the 21-point win.
“The thing that kept us close in the game is that we kept the secondary scorers down,” McMillin said. “Eventually, the guys we were holding down started making shots, and they stretched that lead out.”
McMillin, never happy about a loss, nonetheless recognized his team’s savvy in sticking with a state-ranked opponent for most of the game.
“You don’t feel good about it, but I took a little solace the fact that the guys played real hard and carried out how we wanted to play,” McMillin said. “They’re ranked third in the state, they haven’t lost yet, that’s a good team.”
McMillin is pleased with the way the Warriors have responded to a tough early season slate of opponents.
“I know that all the teams we’ve lost to are in the rankings,” McMillin said. “All the teams we’ve lost to are a combined 26-5, and I never felt like we’ve been overwhelmed in any of those games.”
Harper led Marion’s scoring attack with 21 points, and Hett collected 12. Harper was the team’s leading rebounder as well, grabbing 6 boards, with Jones contributing 5.
As a team, the Warriors shot 40% from the field, 31% from 3-point range, and 60% at the charity stripe.
The Warriors played against another state powerhouse Tuesday, fourth-ranked Sedgwick. Marion plays again Friday when they travel to Hutchinson to take on Trinity Catholic.