Marion stops Searcy, remains perfect in league play
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
Returning home truly proved to be a treat for the Marion Patriots last Friday night. Playing at Patriot Arena for the first time since a December 8 loss to Little Rock Parkview, Marion (8-6 overall, 3-0 7A/6A-East) downed Searcy 55-37 for its sixth win in seven outings. Marion led 18-12 after the first quarter against Searcy, but the Pats tightened up defensively from there. The hosts allowed just a single Searcy field goal in the second quarter and two in the third period. During that time, Marion’s saw its lead swell to 41-25 entering the fourth quarter. “That’s an excellent job by the fellas,” said Marion head coach Irving Clay. “They’re buying into our defense more and more every game. They’ve all done an excellent job, but you can always improve, too.” In addition to limiting Searcy to 3 of 24 shooting in the game’s middle pair of quarters, Marion also outboarded Searcy 40-29. Shaun Doss led Marion with 14 points and 5 rebounds, while senior guard A.J. Latham chipped in with 12 points on 3 of 4 shooting from three-point range. Senior post men Kamari Marrs and Mike Davis paced the Pats with 6 rebounds apiece. Senior point guard Treyvon Jackson was tops with 3 assists. In all, 10 Patriots scored. Searcy got a game-high 18 points from Jeremiah Clifton, but no other Lion scored more than Michael Money’s 8 points. Searcy generally tends to play a slower pace than most schools across the state, but the first quarter saw the teams moving up and the down the floor fairly quickly. The Lions and Pats each got quality looks at the hoop, and converted on them. Searcy connected on 5 of their 13 field goals in the period while Marion was 7 of 12, including a 3 of 5 showing from three-point range. The second quarter saw Marion put the clamps on the Lions. Searcy went without a field goal until the 4:25 mark of the second period, at which time the Pats led 26-12. Marion would take a 28-16 lead to halftime as Searcy was just 1 of 12 from the field in that stanza. The third quarter saw Searcy struggle with their shot again as the visitors didn’t connect on a shot until there was 5:38 remaining in the frame. Compounding the issue was 5 turnovers for the visitors and Marion led 41-25 after three. “I was not aware that we were keeping them from scoring to that degree during the game,” Clay admitted. “But it’s a good feeling when the kids see that and you know that they enjoy playing defense.” The Searcy win wasn’t just significant because it clinched Marion’s third consecutive league start of 3-0 or better, but it also was the Pats’ first win against 6A-East competition. Games against Searcy, Jonesboro and Mountain Home will decide who will ultimately qualify for the Class 6A state tournament in Russellville. Three of those four teams will play in the postseason. “We wanted to make sure that we won by 13 because you never know what may happen down the line,” Clay said of one of the tiebreakers for the state tournament. 13 points is the maximum amount of points that a school can count for their point differential. “I was kind of nervous as the first paratrooper before the game, because as nice as it was to go on the road and win a couple of games, this was a true conference game.” Marion will play its second 6A-East game of the year on Tuesday night when they travel to The Hangar to play Mountain Home. The Bombers and Pats split their two meetings last season, which each winning on their home court. The Pats return home to play the three-time Class 7A state titleists from North Little Rock on Friday night. Tip of the girls game will be at approximately 6 p.m.