Marion’s big three sets the pace
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
Shaun Doss opened and closed last Friday night’s conference opener between Marion and West Memphis with a bang. The Marion junior opened the scoring with a dunk just three seconds in the game, and added an exclamation point on the Pats’ 63-53 win against the Blue Devils by throwing down another dunk for the last hoop of the game. However, everything that fell in between Doss’s dunks was basically par for the course in what has become one of the most competitive rivalries in high school basketball across the state. Marion (6-6 overall, 1-0 7A/6A-East) led 29-24 at halftime and rode an 8-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters into their first double-digit advantage early in the fourth quarter to take control of the game in front of a crowd of nearly 2,700 in West Memphis’ Lehr Arena. The Pats, who have now won three straight against the Blue Devils and two in a row in Lehr Arena, hit 10 of their 15 second-half field goal attempts – a clip of 67% – to help the visitors pull away. “That’s excellent. I’ll take it,” said Marion head coach Irving Clay. “I always preach to the fellas to slow down. I knew we were gonna have a big crowd tonight, but we don’t need to get out of character. We’ve had some great practices this week, and this was the result of it. We talked about taking care of the basketball. We talked about making free throws, and we talked about making the long ball. I thought our defense was excellent tonight, at times. We wanted to get some stops and we got some stops.” Also helping Marion’s cause was some uncharacteristic poor free throw shooting by West Memphis (7-7 overall, 0-1 7A/6A-East). The Blue Devils connected on just 12 of their 29 charities in the game, and 9 of 20 in the second half. “You’re not gonna win any ballgames shooting it like that,” said veteran West Memphis head coach Larry Bray. “When you miss the front end of a one-and-one, that’s like missing two. That’s we count free throws. We just didn’t shoot it well, and Marion did.” Marion shot 17 of 29 from the foul line. While Doss produced arguably the two most memorable plays of the game on his way to accounting for 15 points, he was also involved in one of the key subplots during the contest. The forward picked up his third personal foul of the game with 3:19 left in the second quarter and his team ahead three points at 22-19. By the time that Doss, Marion’s second-leading scorer during the season, had reentered the game with 4:18 left in the third, the Pats had added a basket to their lead, now 36-31. “I didn’t want him to get him out there too early and get another foul, because I knew that we’d need him down the stretch,” Clay explained. “He can score it inside and outside and is a good defender and rebounder. So that was huge for us. I hate to ever sit him, but I had to out of necessity.” In the absence of Doss, it was another pair of former Blue Devils, from Hughes, that kept Marion afloat against the West Memphis Blue Devils. Marlon Warren hit for a game-high 23 points, while also leading Marion in rebounds with 5, while senior guard A.J. Latham added 13 points while hitting 8 of his 12 free throws in the game. Latham and senior guard Treyvon Jackson led Marion with 3 assists apiece. Warren’s night was highlighted by a 6-for-6 showing from two-point range, and an efficient 3 of 8 from downtown. “We had some miscues on defense. They hit some open looks and they hit some that I felt like we defended really well on. It was just a tough night for us,” Bray added. West Memphis was led by Charles Smith’s 11 points and 10 from Robert Harris. The Blue Devils got a game-high 8 rebounds from Zachary Byrd and got a pair of assists from Martavious Johnson. Marion and West Memphis are on the road this Tuesday night as they continue conference play. The Blue Devils are at Searcy while Marion travels to Cabot. The schools return home on Friday night.