MARION — Seniors are expected to take charge.
And in Jordan Turner’s case on Thursday night, it was take a charge.
The lone Marion High School girls basketball team member honored on Senior Night planted her feet and got bowled over by a fast-breaking Carbondale player for one of the biggest moments in the Lady Wildcats’ 50-43 victory at Cuss Wilson Gymnasium.
The contest was for third place in the South Seven Conference and the Lady Wildcats (10-16, 5-5) claimed that slot over the rival Terriers (9-16, 4-6) with the win.
Freshman Jerzy Bittle scored 24 points for Marion, which once owned a 16-point lead only to see Carbondale get within eight after a shot by Kate Crombar with just under four minutes left. The Terriers had a chance to get closer when Turner absorbed the offensive foul as her team was in a four-minute offensive drought.
“That was a big charge,” said Marion coach Mike Manfredo. “That’s not easy to do when someone is barreling at you.”
Marion pushed its lead back to double digits on a wide-open layup by Maegan Dillon at the 2:15 mark, and the Lady Wildcats were able to hang on for the win.
Carbondale jumped out to a 9-4 lead on baskets by Hannah Lowndes and Akira Custer, only to see the Lady Wildcats reel off a 12-0 run starting with a basket from Gracie Connor before Turner drilled a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer from in front of the Terriers’ bench.
“When it’s Senior Night and there’s a lot of emotion you’re always worried that the kids might be too amped up,” Manfredo said. “But we got off to a decent start and then got a little separation on them. They’re so quick and strong that they really hurt us on the boards and we were able to make enough shots and take care of the ball to get the win.”
Bittle capped the run with a 3-pointer after fellow freshman Alexis Hutchcraft also scored. Then it was Bittle who took a pass from Turner and swished another trey at the halftime buzzer for a 25-15 lead.
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“We have a few set plays we try to run, and we were actually able to execute some of them,” Manfredo said. “It makes the coaches look good.”
Carbondale head coach Brad Walker saw each of the buzzer-beating shots as being very different.
“The first one, the girl threw that up and you just tip your hat on that,” Walker said. “The second one, we lost focus and lost their best shooter. You can’t lose her at the end of a half.”
Marion’s lead was at 13 twice in the third quarter, first on a shot by Connor and later on free throws by Turner, before Carbondale pulled to within eight at 35-27 on a bucket by Custer with 1:40 left in the frame.
But a leaning, banked-in shot by Bittle turned into a three-point play and then Bittle drained another trey in the final seconds off a nifty pass out of the post by Hutchcraft and Marion’s lead was suddenly 41-27 going into the fourth.
A putback by Hutchcraft capped an 8-0 run and gave Marion its biggest margin of the night at 16 early in the final period before Carbondale cut it in half.
“We got shots that we wanted to get,” Walker said. “We gave up too many second and third shots. When you do that, they’re going to make shots. But overall we didn’t play a bad game. We made shots toward the end and got closer but it was too little, too late.”
Custer led the Terriers with 18 points and Cobb had eight.
Bittle had three 3-pointers and five clutch free throws as part of her 24 points, while Hutchcraft also reached double figures with 10. Connor tallied sevenand Turner finished with six in her final home game.
“Jerzy shot the ball really well tonight,” Manfredo said. “And of course the senior leadership out of Jordan. She handled the offense and kept us under the control.”
Marion and Carbondale meet again Monday night in an opening-round game of the Centralia 3A Regional. The winner advances to Tuesday’s semifinals against Mattoon. Centralia faces Herrin in the other semifinal.