MARION — This one was a little tougher than it needed to be, but it ended up where most Marion boys’ basketball games have ended up recently. In the left-hand column.
Vanquishing West Delaware, 58-53, Tuesday night on the southside gave the Indians a bona fide win streak of six. None of those six in a row have been inherently easy, as the final scores indicate.
Marion has won games by two, three, four, five (twice) and six points in this stretch. But they’re wins, period, they’re coming in a cluster, and we are rapidly approaching the Class 3A postseason.
Those are good things.
“We were 6-7, now we’re 12-7,” said Marion’s Gage Franck, who scored a game-high 22 points, including 14 in a first half that put Marion (12-7) in front by as many as 18 points and by 16 at the break. “We’re just trying to get hot going into the postseason. That’s what I think we’re doing. We lost a lot of seniors from last year, and we had to develop a chemistry. And we have improved our defense, and that’s what’s helping us.”
West Delaware (9-10) won the first game between the Wamac Conference rivals by 10 points in mid-January. The Hawks didn’t meekly go into this night after their rough start, rallying to get within 56-53 in the final minute.
WD even had possession but missed a 3-point attempt, with Lucas Unsen hitting an ensuing free throw for Marion with 20.6 left for a 57-53 lead. Marion struggled mightily at the free-throw line, going just 6 of 18, which allowed West Delaware to get closer and closer and closer.
“They kind of took it to us the last time,” Marion Coach Pete Messerli said. “Any win in the Wamac, you take it and run with it. Getting up 16 at the half, it turned into a grinder. But I told them in the locker room, we’re going to be in close games, we’ve had success in close games. There are things we can learn from. Even though we lost the lead, we can learn from that.”
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Center Garret Wagner complemented Franck offensively with 12 points. Franck had a game-high 10 rebounds.
Kyle Kelley had 15 points to pace West Delaware, though that was five under his season scoring average and 18 fewer than he had in the first meeting between the teams.
“Last time, he scored 33. That was our goal, to hold him under his average, which was 20,” Franck said.
“We just started too slow,” first-year WD Coach Drake Schuring said. “On the bright side, I thought we were getting decent looks. They weren’t great looks, but they were decent. As soon as we started moving the ball in the second half, they were wide open.”
Schuring sat all five of his starters to begin the second half to good effect, with Raub Loecke, Jamison Smith, Jaxson Woellert, Luke Kehrli and Elias Tibbett getting the call and sort of sparking a rally.
”I was disappointed in our effort defensively,” Schuring said. “We had no communication, which I don’t know where that came from. We don’t practice like that. One of those bummers where you say something to them, they might not respond. At halftime, they responded. I said something to them in the locker room, just challenged them to work harder, otherwise it wasn’t going to be fun the rest of the year.”
WEST DELAWARE (53): Logan Woeller 3-9 0-0 7, Mitch Krogmann 0-5 0-0 0, Kyle Kelley 7-22 0-0 15, Eric Salow 2-4 0-0 5, Blake DeMoss 5-8 0-0 13, Jamison Smith 1-3 0-0 2, Luke Kehrli 3-7 0-0 8, Jaxson Woellert 0-0 0-0 0, Raub Loecke 1-3 0-0 3, Elias Tibbett 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-61 0-0 53.
MARION (58): Lucas Unsen 0-1 1-2 1, Gage Franck 9-13 2-4 22, Garret Watgner 6-10 0-1 12, Cael Hodges 2-12 3-7 9, Brayson Laube 2-8 0-00 0, Boede Rahe 2-5 0-0 4, Jackson Kirsch 2-3 0-4 5, Payton Hodges 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-54 6-18 58,
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Halftime — Marion 35, West Delaware 19. 3-point goals — West Delaware 9-34 (L. Woellert 1-5, Kelley 1-10, Salow 1-3, DeMoss 3-6, Smith 0-2, Kehrli 2-5, Loecke 1-3), Marion 6-20 (Franck 2-3, C. Hodges 2-7, Laube 1-6, Kirsch 1-2, P. Hodges 0-2). Rebounds — West Delaware 38 (Krogmann 8, Kehrli 7), Marion 37 (Franck 10). Total fouls — West Delaware 20, Marion 7. Fouled out — None. Turnovers — West Delaware 12, Marion 4.
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