MARION — Despite a poor first half, the Marion boys basketball team enjoyed a big third quarter on its way to a 52-51 victory over Althoff Catholic Friday in South Seven Conference action.
Althoff (4-20) used a 16-1 run in the first quarter to grab a nine-point advantage early on. Fortunately for Marion, Justin Saddoris put the Wildcats on his back and kept his squad in the game during the second quarter.
Saddoris racked up nine straight points to slice the Marion deficit to just two. He finished with a game-high 22 points.
“It’s all about shot selection,” said Marion assistant coach Darrell Wimberly. “Justin takes it to the hole, but he can shoot from outside, too. What we needed was baskets and high-percentage shots. Him taking it to the hole really helped our team and got everybody else fired up.”
The Crusaders still held a 25-20 lead at halftime. Greg Wells nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer just before the intermission.
Marion played very well in the third quarter and outscored Althoff 23-9. Saddoris scored the first four points to get the Wildcats going.
Cole Schafer, Jaden Lacy, and Terrell Henderson each made baskets to give Marion a 31-30 edge. Jackson Connor and Lacy tallied nine points combined during a 10-0 Marion run later in the third period.
The Wildcats built a nine-point advantage after three quarters of play.
“We knew that our defense was really going to be our success pattern,” Wimberly said. “We played really good defense in the third quarter. Althoff’s record doesn’t show it, but they have very good athletes and can shoot the ball well.”
It looked like Marion had gained complete control of the game early in the fourth quarter. But the Crusaders made it interesting down the stretch.
Ethyn Brown buried a triple to pull Althoff within 50-48 with 1:28 left on the clock. But the Wildcats (16-10) were able to hold for the victory. Lacy contributed 11 points for Marion. Justin Strong, Greg Wells, and Patrick Readye had 10 apiece for the Crusaders.
“We got down, but our guys have fought all year, and we’ve played a lot of good teams really tough,” said Althoff coach Greg Leib. “We make people prepare, and we’re not an easy out. I’m proud of our guys, and they’re getting better.”
Marion hosts Meridian tonight and travels to Carbondale for a conference game on Feb. 16. The Wildcats could spoil a potential share of the South Seven championship with a victory over the Terriers.