MARION — Marion broke open a tight game with a big third quarter to extend its winning streak to three with a 50-31 win over South Seven Conference foe Mount Vernon on Thursday.
“In the first half they did a good job defensively, but we were finally able to get the ball inside and Jasa Bell really stepped up for us tonight with great minutes and much needed points with Cassandra Woods out,” said Marion coach Mike Manfredo. “Bell was running the floor well and we were able to get to ball into her quick for some good run out buckets.”
Bell led the Wildcats with 21 points and six rebounds with Abby Bayer adding 18 points, six rebounds and a steal.
“Cass was out, so we had to step it up and play together as a team,” Bell said. “I usually average about seven points a game, but I knew I had to step up tonight and I guess I got lucky on my shots.”
Marion improved to 6-2 overall and evened its record in the conference at 1-1 while Mount Vernon dropped to 2-6 and 0-3 in the South Seven.
Marion held a five-point lead at the half and came out blazing scoring the first seven points on a jumper by Bayer, a fast break layup by Bell and a 3-point basket by Bayer.
“We talked at halftime about trying to spread it out to 10 or 12 points in the first three minutes and then take the air out of the ball and use our man offense against them, which they had trouble with a bit in the first half,” Manfredo said. “That was the key to game right there and didn’t let them back in. We had some difficulty holding onto big leads, but tonight it was nice to coast in at the end.”
The Rams snapped the streak when Annibelle Harrison was fouled and split her free throws, but Bell got it started again on a three-point play when she was fouled making another fast break layup and made the free throw.
Bell extended her scoring streak to seven straight points on a layup and a putback. Madison Goodley followed with two free throws and the Wildcats led by 20 points with 1:46 remaining in the third quarter.
The Rams finally scored its first basket of the third quarter on a putback by Taylor Thompson with 1:14 left. Then on the next possession Lezhauria Williams stole the ball and scored to cut the lead to 16 heading into the fourth quarter.
“Their plan was really good packing in the zone,” said Mount Vernon coach Jeff Lonnon. “They didn’t let us penetrate and get to the rim much with alleviated our size advantage leaving us shooting shots that were low percentage. The farther we fell behind the more of those we had to shoot. When you have to live or die by shots that are beyond 15 feet it’s hard to score, especially for us.”
The Rams cut the lead to 13 with 2:09 remaining on two 3-pointers by Brooklyn Kelley, but that was as close as Mount Vernon got. Harrison and Kelley led the Rams in scoring with 12 and 11 points, respectively.