CENTRALIA — Centralia used a stifling defense to overcome an early deficit and defeat Marion, 48-43, Friday night in both South Seven Conference teams' opener at Trout Arena.
Koby Wilmoth, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, hit three huge 3-pointers as part of his 14 points for the Orphans, who also got 14 points from senior guard Mason Blakemore.
"Our pressure was probably the difference," said Centralia coach Lee Bennett. "We didn't really execute very well, we didn't shoot it really well, but our effort was pretty good. It was our first game and some of that happens but we're playing a lot of experienced kids. I was hoping we'd be better than that on some of those things, but the intensity was there and that was important."
Marion (0-1) scored 14 straight points in the opening minutes to take a 16-2 lead. That run included seven points by junior Rayzhaun Bardo, a 3-pointer by Venson Newsom and a pair of driving layups by Trevor Jackson.
Bardo and Jackson both had eight points to share team-high honors for the Wildcats.
"We got a little sloppy against their pressure," said Marion coach Gus Gillespie. "We've got three solid guards and maybe they weren't ready for it and got a little tired. We got sloppy and gave them easy opportunities."
The Orphans (1-0) got back in the game with a trapping defense in the second quarter and got within 23-21 before Marion's Bryson Wilson converted a steal and layup at the buzzer to give the Wildcats a four-point halftime lead.
Bardo picked up his fourth foul at the 6:22 mark of the third quarter and the Orphans took their first lead at 28-26 on a 3-pointer by Wilmoth with 3:38 left in the frame.
Wilmoth dropped in another triple and Cory Fleeman put in a layup after Marion's eighth turnover of the period, which ended with Centralia outscoring the visitors, 12-1.
"Our defense was good, but they were scoring off our turnovers," Gillespie said. "But our kids fought in there. At least we know what to improve on."
The lead grew to as big as 10 points twice in the fourth quarter, first on two free throws by Fleeman with 3:49 to play, and again when Eli Barrow made a stickback to make it 44-34.
Four straight missed free throws by the Orphans helped Marion pull as close as 44-40 in the final minute after a nice layup by Marion senior Hunter Simmons on a pass from Jackson.
The Wildcats couldn't get any closer and now prepare for next Friday's home matchup against Carbondale, which lost to Mount Vernon 58-24 on Friday.