Marion gets rest before Beebe tournament
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
Irving Clay even knew in the preseason that his latest version of the Marion Patriots was going to be a work in progress. Clay’s rotation has continued to evolve through the season’s first 8 games, and the results have been mixed, leaving Marion with a 3-5 overall record. In last Friday’s 72-64 loss to Briarcrest Christian (8-2 overall), the game was decided by a big night from Saints guard Ryan Vaughn. Marion was unable to come up with an answer for Vaughn, who hit for a game-high 29 points, including 13 in the second half. Vaughn’s teammate Will Hrubes added in 16 points of his own. Vaughn’s big night overshadowed 22 points from Marion junior Shaun Doss, 11 apiece from Kamari Marrs and Marlon Warren and 10 from A.J. Latham. Doss hit for a double-double with 10 rebounds, a game-high, while senior point guard Treyvon Jackson handed out 3 assists to lead Marion in that category. Briarcrest Christian hit an impressive 25 of their 42 field goals against Marion, keyed by a 16 of 23 effort in the second half. “This is the deal: I knew that we’d play a tough non-conference schedule, just to see where we are, and where we need to grow, and these teams that we’re bringing in here, they’re tough, man,” explained Clay after the game. “We have to learn to play for four quarters. There are basic things that we’re not doing well. We’re not boxing out at all, and we’re still missing free throws.” Briarcrest won the rebounding battling 30-24 while Marion connected on just 8 of their 15 free throws. The Saints canned 15 of their 19 charities, including an 11 of 11 mark in the first half. The Saints led 15-11 after the first quarter and pushed their advantage to 32-27 at the break, but the third quarter may have ultimately boosted Briarcrest to the win. The visitors hit 9 of their 14 shots in the third stanza, and they took their first double-digit lead with 3:50 left in that frame at 49-39. Briarcrest led 57-45 entering the fourth quarter. “Coming out of the half, we talked about how we had to have some stops, but then we immediately get beat on a back door cut. That hurts your feelings, it hurts your pride,” Clay explained. “Then they hit a three, and we respond by taking some ill-advised shots and then we miss lay-ups and free throws.” In that third quarter, Vaughn and Hrubes combined for 14 points. The Briarcrest lead would expand all the way to 15 points in the third quarter, but Marion would trim that advantage down to 8 points on two different occasions prior to the final during the fourth quarter, but could never get over the hump. Marion’s rally in the fourth quarter was keyed by hitting 7 of 15 shots from the field and turning the ball over just one time. The Pats lost just 10 turnovers in the game, a season low. Part of the reason for that could have been Clay adjusting his starting lineup and bringing Latham off of the bench with the second unit, with Jackson drawing the start. “One of our problems this year has been not having a true backup to Jackson at the point guard,” Clay explained. “You have to be able to rest one of the two, and A.J. is really our second-best ball-handler.” Marion played without starting post man, senior Mike Davis, against Briarcrest, but the team expects him to be able to return for the Pats’ run at the Beebe Holiday Tournament from December 28-30. The Patriots will open league play on Friday, January 8 at Lehr Arena against the West Memphis Blue Devils.