After cruising to a 20-point win in its first game of the Centre Cougar Classic Jan. 21, the Marion boys’ basketball team battled to the last minute in its final two games.
“Our goal for this week was 3-0,” coach Jeff McMillin said after a third-place victory. “We didn’t get that, but what we got in exchange was a tough, hard-fought win.”
After jumping out to a 7-2 lead early in the first quarter against Flint Hills Job Corps, the Eagles went on a 16-7 run to lead 18-9 at the end of the quarter.
The Warriors trailed the Eagles by 11 twice in the second quarter, but finally made the changes needed to build momentum.
“We adjusted and spread the floor a little bit, and were able to pull the defense out and attack more,” McMillin said. “That’s when we started to see success.”
Down 30-19 toward the end of the first half, Zach Robson and Taylor Heidebrecht scored 7 unanswered points to bring the Warriors within four, 30-26 at halftime.
Marion trailed for most of the third quarter, trying to match the Eagles’ fast pace and outside shooting. A 3-pointer from Timothy Knolla brought the Warriors within two at the 2-minute mark, and two threes from Robson gave the Warriors a 42-38 lead before the final period.
McMillin said the team followed Robson’s performance, who finished the game with 29 points.
“I didn’t play very well for the first two-and-a-half quarters, but I kind of heated up at the end, so it was pretty good,” Robson said.
The Warriors led for the rest of the game, albeit mostly by only two or four points.
Only up by three in the last 24 seconds, Grif Case tipped the rebound from a missed free throw back to Knolla. The extra possession gave Marion two free throws and a two-possession lead to hold off the Eagles 62-60.
Knolla, 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Heidebrecht, 12 points, 3 assists, 1 steal; Robson, 29 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals; Case, 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist; James Jones, 2 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists; Brett Voth, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Jacob Baldwin, 1 point, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal.
Friday against top-seeded Rural Vista the Warriors fell behind early after the Heat began the game on an 8-2 run.
Marion came back in the second quarter, building a 12-3 run to lead 18-15. Rural Vista scored twice in the last 30 seconds of the quarter, and led 19-18 at the break.
Taylor Heidebrecht made a jumper during the first minute of the third quarter to give Marion a lead, and the Warriors stayed ahead for most of the quarter.
Marion led 31-30 at the beginning of the fourth, but a 3-pointer and jump shot gave Rural Vista a 35-32 lead midway through the quarter.
Knolla and Heidebrecht scored to put the Warriors up one, but another three by the Heat put Marion down for good.
James Jones made a free throw to narrow the deficit to one with 12 seconds left, but Marion could not grab rebounds from missed free throws to take a lead. Knolla’s final three missed, and Rural Vista won 40-37.
Heidebrecht was the lone Warrior chosen to the all-tournament team. He averaged 9 points, 2 assists, and 3 steals throughout the tournament.
Knolla, 7 points, 1 assist, 2 steals; Heidebrecht, 8 points, 2 assists, 6 steals; Robson, 2 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals; Case, 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals; Jones, 3 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal; Voth, 1 rebound; Baldwin, 5 points, 5 rebounds.