CARBONDALE — It was game of runs with Marion starting the quarters on a run and Carbondale finishing them until the fourth quarter when Marion finished strong to hold off the Terriers, 46-36, in a South Seven girls basketball battle Tuesday night.
“We kept battling,” said Marion coach Mike Manfredo. “We’ve struggled at times this year having four or five minute lapses where we can’t put the ball in the hole, but as long as we keep fighting on the defensive end it helps us through those lapses. Give Carbondale credit. They wouldn’t go away.”
Marion improved to 8-11 overall and pulled even in the conference standings at 3-3 while Carbondale fell to 4-10 and 1-4.
“We came out flat in the first quarter and that’s kind of been our Achilles Heel for the last couple weeks,” said Carbondale coach Brad Walker. “We’re spotting teams too big a lead in the first quarter and then having to fight and claw to get back into it. I tell the girls all the turnovers and missed shots during a game becomes a much bigger deal when we’re spotting big leads. It’s hard to play catch up all the time. So we have to figure out a way to come out and play for 32 minutes instead of a solid 24 minutes.”
Freshman guard Jerzy Bittle, who came into the game leading Marion with 15 points a game, led the Wildcats with 20 points, including 5-for-5 from the line, with Alexis Hutchcraft adding 11 and Gracie Connor eight.
“It was a strange game, but I knew we’d pull through though,” Bittle said. “We come into games with a lot of confidence that if we do what coach says we will come through just like we did in the fourth quarter tonight.”
Torrey Taylor led the Terriers with 12 points, including 4-for-5 from the line with Akira Custer with nine, including 4-of-4 from the charity stripe.
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Both teams had good games at the line with Carbondale making 12-of-15 and Marion 11-of-15.
Marion jumped out to a 9-0 lead to open the game, but the Terriers finally found their shooting eye to outscore the Wildcats, 9-3, to pull within five points at 11-6 heading into the second quarter.
The same thing happened in the second with Marion pulling out to a 20-9 lead with 5:35 remaining and the Terriers closing strong combined with Marion going cold from field.
Carbondale opened the third quarter with senior center Hannah Lowndes scoring on a putback at the 15 second mark to cut the lead to three, but Marion responded on back-to-back buckets by Hutchcraft.
The teams traded buckets for the next 2:32, until Elaiyah Badger drew a foul on a putback and split her two free throw attempts. Then neither team could find the range until Kiara Cobb drained a jumper from the right of the lane with 58 seconds left to cut the lead to four and it remained that way heading into the fourth quarter.
Marion immediately extended its lead to nine points on baskets by Connor, Bittle and 1-of-2 free throws by Jordan Turner in the first 3:19 while Carbondale went cold from the field missing their first four shots, including the first three from beyond the arc.
The drought ended when Badger grabbed a rebound and scored while being fouled and then converted the free throw to cut the lead six with 4:32 remaining.
However, Carbondale would go cold again from the field making just one of its final nine shots, which was a 3-pointer by Custer with 3:10 remaining to cut the lead to seven.