High school basketball teams never play five games in seven days, but Marion did, closing a madcap schedule realignment with losses to Council Grove on Thursday in Marion.
Weather postponed the start of Centre’s tournament by three days, creating the crunch. Marion teams played three tournament games in four days and then Hillsboro before taking on the Braves.
The girls hoped to capitalize on their Centre tournament championship and victory over Hillsboro, but came up short against the Braves, 59-53.
Marion turned an early deficit into a 10-point lead, 45-35, late in the third quarter, but Council Grove ripped off a 14-3 run going into the fourth and kept the Warriors at bay the rest of the way.
Coach Kelly Robson was reluctant to credit the grueling schedule for the loss.
“I really don’t know if five games in seven days wears them down mentally and physically,” he said. “I felt like a couple of us weren’t as mentally ‘in it’ tonight as we have been some other times, and against a team like that, everybody’s got to be fully here. That mental part of it possibly was a wearing factor they weren’t even aware of.”
More challenging, Robson said, was the type of offense Council Grove ran.
“We’ve played a variety of teams, but we haven’t played anybody that has three good ball handlers like this team has,” he said. “They got loose from us a few times tonight. I don’t know anybody else who runs something like that in our league.”
Even with the loss, Robson was upbeat about how his team tackled the compacted schedule.
“They had fun this week,” he said. “They love playing basketball.”
A lackluster first half put the boys in a hole from which they couldn’t recover, losing 60-51.
The Warriors led early, but were outscored 23-10 in the second quarter, and trailed by as many as 16 in the second half. Marion rallied in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 7 points, 56-49, with just over three minutes left, but scored just one basket down the stretch to fall by 9.
“The biggest problem we had all night was that we were reacting instead of anticipating,” coach Jeff McMillin said. “We wasted a lot of the game not playing the way we should play.”
The Warriors played a second consecutive game without Tyler Zinn, who became eligible in January, but went down with an ankle injury at Centre.
“Those changes to the lineup have been tough,” McMillin said. “We spent probably a week and a half adjusting to Tyler getting into the lineup. I can tell we adjusted well having him in the lineup, because once he left the lineup we were way off. We’ve just got to realize our margin for error isn’t as big as it was.”
McMillin said the Warriors showed improvement from their loss to Hillsboro, particularly during the fourth quarter.
“I saw a lot more possessions tonight where we were getting ball movement and touching more guys hands,” he said.