MARION — In a game where it couldn’t force Mount Vernon to play any faster or make a spate of point-blank shots at the goal, Marion won by blocking the Rams’ path to the bucket.
Center Terrell Henderson rejected six shots and point guard Jaden Lacy blocked a potential go-ahead 3-pointer by Weston Brockhouse in the final five seconds on Friday night as the Wildcats held on for a 37-35 victory in the Pyramid Plus Tournament at Cuss Wilson Gym.
“Both teams played extremely hard and I thought Mount Vernon had a great plan,” said Marion coach Gus Gillespie. “Fortunately for us, Lacy made a great play and then the kid was maybe a step or two out of his range at the end.”
The 6-foot-1 Lacy, who led all scorers with 15 points, came off his man and swatted Brockhouse’s 22-footer from the left wing for his team’s eighth rejection of the game. But the rebound went off Lacy’s hands and the Rams (2-1) had one more crack at it with 2.2 seconds remaining.
However, the Wildcats (3-0) shut down every option on the inbounds pass except for the last one, a pass to Zach Williams behind the arc. Williams tried to shake himself free on the dribble, but had to hoist up a 23-footer that came up short as time expired.
Despite the result, Mount Vernon coach Doug Creel found time to take a big-picture look at things.
“We’re a lot better than we were last year,” he said. “We had our chances at the end, but they made one more play than we did.”
Offensively, senior wing Justin Saddoris provided the one more play Creel referenced. Saddoris drove into the lane, spun to his right and rimmed in a 10-footer with 1:19 left for the game’s final points. Saddoris finished with 10 points, eight after halftime.
Marion scored 11 straight points in the second quarter to open up a 20-10 lead, speeding up the deliberate Rams for the only time all game. It also owned a 30-19 advantage at the 3:41 mark of the third quarter after Lacy scored in transition.
But Brockhouse and Amir Spann helped Mount Vernon get back into contention, combining for every point in a 10-1 run that pulled the Rams within two points. Brockhouse then canned his fourth 3-pointer with 2:12 left to even the score at 35.
However, Saddoris’ bucket and the Wildcats’ defense preserved the result.
“They’re very disciplined and well-coached,” Gillespie said of Mount Vernon. “You know you’re going to be in a dogfight, but I thought our kids picked their spots well.”