Marion gets to 2-2 overall
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
With his team down a point and less than 10 seconds on the clock, Marion senior guard LeAunte Johnson had but one thing on his mind as he launched the biggest shot of the game against Conway last night. “I thought I was gonna miss it,” explained Johnson with a laugh after the game. But he didn’t. Johnson finished his night 2 of 6 from the field, but his three-point attempt rang true to give his Patriots a 46-44 lead that would double as the final in a home non-conference win that evened Marion’s record at 2-2 overall. Conway’s final attempt at a tying field goal or a go-ahead triple would be snuffed out when Marion senior guard Treyvon Jackson came up with a steal near halfcourt and while Jackson would miss his free throw attempt, the best that Conway could do for a final possession was a long heave from underneath their own basket with time expiring. While Johnson’s team would need all 5 of his points on the game, that almost wasn’t the case as Marion used a 12-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to take as much as a 10-point lead in the final stanza, seeing its lead max out at 40-30 with 5:01 left in the contest. From there, Marion lost 4 turnovers and it was Conway taking advantage, as the Wampus Cats finished the game by hitting 6 of 9 shots from the field in the fourth quarter to take that 44-43 lead after guard Kendarious Smith scored on a dunk with 43 seconds left in the game. Smith would hit for a game-high 15 points. “The positive end is that we did win the game. What I’m disappointed in is that we didn’t put the game away, it’s a game I felt like we should have won by 12 or 14 points,” explained Marion head coach Irving Clay. “If you have a 10-point lead, they have to foul and we get to shoot free throws, but we didn’t keep that lead, we let them back into it.” While the game ended with a scoring flurry, it wasn’t so all night as Marion led 8-6 after the first quarter thanks to some chilly Conway shooting. The visitors hit their first shot of the night, and then missed their last 12 field goals in the first period. The shooting of the Wampus Cats would actually plummet to 1 of 17 late in the first half before Conway hit 3 of their last 4 shots to heat up to 4 for 21 for the first two quarters. On Marion’s side, the story was turnovers (12 in the first half) and a 1 for 9 mark from the foul stripe in that same time. Those circumstances conspired to give Conway a slim 22-20 lead at the break. Senior guard A.J. Latham (5 points, 3 assists) would come out like a man possessed in the third period, scoring Marion’s first two buckets from the field and assisting on their third as the Pats would claim a 36-30 lead after three quarters. Marion would also trot out its third different starting lineup combination in four games as Johnson, Daylon Witt, Jordan Barrow, Mike Davis and Deontre Moore were announced with the starters. “As a coach, you want to give everybody an opportunity against a worthy opponent. This is a big school, it’s a 7A school and a school that plays good basketball,” says Clay. “We’re in the 6A-East, it’s the toughest conference in the state of Arkansas and if you’re on the team, then any given night you should be able to go out and play.” Marion got a balanced scoring effort on the night as 10 different Patriots scored in the game, led by senior post man Kamari Marrs and his 8 points. Shaun Doss and Marlon Warren would each hit for 6 and Elisha Hobbs, Moore and Ashton Mitchell would all post 4. Doss was tops in rebounds with 5.