CARBONDALE — It looked like Carbondale might run Marion out of the building after nearly six minutes of play in a key South Seven Conference matchup Friday night.
The Terriers held a 17-3 lead at that point, but the Wildcats remembered that prep basketball games last 32 minutes, or 36 in this case.
Slowly but surely, Marion got back in the game and picked up a huge 56-53 victory over the Terriers in overtime on Friday night, which spoiled Carbondale earning at least a share of the conference championship.
“You’ve got to give Carbondale credit because they did the same thing to us in the first quarter at our place,” said Marion coach Gus Gillespie. “They came out after us back then, and it was like here we go again. We were able to make enough plays to hang around and then had a really good second quarter. Saddoris made a big play, and we had several guys make big plays.”
In overtime, Marion had the ball with 20 seconds to play. Justin Saddoris took the ball to the hole and made a spinning layup. He was also fouled, but missed the free throw with Marion nursing a one-point advantage.
But the Wildcats grabbed the rebound, and Terrell Henderson threw down a two-handed dunk at the buzzer.
“I was just trying to make a play for my team, and I was just thankful it went in, that’s for sure,” Saddoris said of his clutch shot. “Our coach had so much confidence in us the whole game. He told us we were fine and to get some stops and the shots would start falling.”
The shots certainly did fall for Marion. After Darius Beane sank two free throws to give Carbondale a 48-46 edge early in overtime, Cole Schafer made an enormous 3-pointer that bounced straight up off the rim and back in.
That big basket gave the Wildcats just their second lead of the ball game.
Beane lit up the Wildcats for 25 points through the first three quarters of play. But Jaden Lacy did a nice job, along with his help defense, of shutting down Beane in the fourth quarter. The Carbondale senior still finished with a game-high 29 points.
“I tell you what, after the first quarter, we allowed Marion to be very comfortable,” said Carbondale coach Jim Miller. “You’ve got to give Marion a lot of credit. They did a great job of catching the ball wherever they wanted to catch it. We did not force anybody off the spots tonight. Connor caught the ball in the fourth quarter wherever he wanted to catch it.”
Jackson Connor played a key role in sending the game to overtime. The Marion sophomore scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth period. Lacy racked up 13 points as well.
“When their three kids are playing that way, it makes it very difficult for us,” Miller said. “This is the Marion team that I thought they could be all year long. This is a very versatile team with a lot of weapons. When they all play together, they make it difficult on teams. I’m disappointed with the loss, and I’m disappointed with our overall effort at the defensive end.”
Centralia defeated Cahokia, 50-42, Friday. The Orphans improved to 8-1 in conference and can win the league outright if it can beat Marion in a week.
The Wildcats improved to 18-10 and 4-5. Carbondale fell to 19-6 and 8-2.