Head coach Jeff McMillin has been looking in recent games for his team to take a step forward.
It seemed to have done so Thursday as it mounted an early lead against Haven — only, the team then took two steps back.
A 24-6 run flipped the script in a game Marion had been controlling, as Haven surged and pulled away to win 59-35.
“We were getting to our rotations perfectly in the first quarter, then as we started getting tired, we were still focused on what we were supposed to do, I think we were just a little too fatigued to get there on time,” McMillin said. “All a good team needs is that extra half step.”
And so, a 12-9 lead turned into a 33-18 deficit for the Warriors.
The first quarter was a combination of bad shooting and good defense, as the Wildcats trudged to a 7-5 lead. About halfway through the second quarter, the Warriors defense gave out. At halftime, the offense followed it.
The Warriors didn’t score in the second half until 3 minutes, 8 seconds remained in the third quarter.
McMillin said he thought the Warriors’ energy was good, but they lost focus in the second half.
“The guys want to win, they want to do well, they’re coachable,” he said, “but we’ve got to find a way where we can fix some of the mistakes that we’re making.”
Nicholas Stuchlik led Marion with 9 points and 6 rebounds. The Warriors were 0-for-10 from behind the arc.
Freshman Evan Heidebrecht had some standout moments in the first half with assertive play leading to 5 points and an assist. Youth caught up to the first-year guard in the second half, though, and he finished with 5 of Marion’s 15 turnovers. McMillin has increased his playing time, and voiced support for him afterward.
“He’s learning, and he’s doing a heck of a job for the amount of experience he has,” he said. “It’s the first semester of his first year. Considering everything, he’s doing pretty well.”
Heidebrecht’s continued growth and the arrival of transfer player Tyler Zinn could give the Warriors the boost they’re looking for as they head into the winter break.
The Warriors will return to the floor in their first road trip as they face Canton-Galva on Jan. 5.
Girls fall late
The execution on the final play was perfect. Erika Hess rebounded a missed free throw and passed ahead to Kirsten Hansen, who passed cross-court to Bailey Robson, who banked in the 3-pointer with less than 5 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately, the deficit was 4 points. The Haven Wildcats simply let time expire after Robson’s shot to procure a 44-43 victory. Marion had battled to the end, but sound Haven free-throw shooting made its efforts futile.
“Had she missed that last free throw, Bailey’s shot — bank though it was — ties the game,” head coach Kelly Robson said. “So that’s the difference.”
The Warriors held a 4-point lead entering the fourth quarter. Four Wildcats 3-pointers to start the period put the home team down 6, after they had led most of the game.
“I hate it when it’s my fault,” Robson said. “They started to get some shots to go, we had done a nice job in our full-court man, in our half-court man. We went zone, and it was OK for a little bit, then gradually they started making shots, and I didn’t get us out of that fast enough. I feel like a good part of the loss hangs on me.”
The Warriors also allowed baskets in the last 5 seconds of each of the first three quarters, totaling a 7-0 advantage for the Wildcats.
Haven sunk a 3-pointer to end the first quarter, a jumper to end the first half, and a layup to end the third quarter.
“I turned to the girls at the end of the third quarter, and said ‘Let’s see if they can score this time,’ and lo and behold, they did,” Robson said.
Bailey Robson led Marion with 13 points, while Kourtney Hansen had 8 and Erika Hess pitched in 7.
Despite the loss pushing Marion’s record to 2-3, Robson is pleased with the way his team has competed thus far, and said he looks forward to seeing what it can do in league play.
“I don’t see anybody on the schedule that is just going to blow us out of the gym, unless we decide to let it happen,” he said. “Now, can we compete for the whole 32 minutes and make the shots we need to make?”
Marion returns from winter break by competing at Canton-Galva Jan. 5.