Marion out-Searcy’s Searcy in road win
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
SEARCY — Armed with a six-point lead midway through the third quarter, Marion decided to beat Searcy at their own game. Playing with a chance to clinch a spot in the Class 6A state tournament in Russellville at the Searcy High School basketball gym, Marion slowed the pace down against the zone of the Lions and took down a 45-36 victory. Following a Michael Money jump shot that cut Marion’s lead to 33-27 with 4:09 left in the third quarter, veteran Marion head coach Irving Clay ordered his troops to take the air out of the ball. Marion senior point guard Treyvon Jackson and junior forward Shaun Doss played catch in the corner for most of that possession, and while Marion would turn the ball over with 39.3 seconds left in the quarter, the Pats had succeeded in doing what they set out to do during that clock-killing drive. “I wanted to make them defend, because they were sitting back in the zone, and I wanted to use the clock against them,” Clay explained after the game. “They stuck with their guns, and we stuck with our guns, and sooner or later, if we have the lead, we knew that they’d then have to pick us up man-to-man.” While the Marion stall may not have been aesthetically-pleasing to fans in attendance, it was undoubtedly effective. The Patriots led 33-27 after three quarters, and they extended their lead to 35-27 on an A.J. Latham jumper with 5:31 left in regulation. The Latham bucket followed another lengthy Marion possession and snapped a streak of seven minutes and 48 seconds of no points being scored in the game by either team. Searcy would scrape within three points with 2:07 left in the contest on a goaltending call, but the Pats would open up a seven-point lead with 39.2 remaining following free throws from Marlon Warren and Doss. Marion was eight of 12 from the stripe in the fourth quarter. “It has to be better,” said Clay of his team’s foul shooting. “We work hours upon hours on free throws. Maybe we work on it too much? But at some point, winning or losing comes down to making free throws.” Playing against the last winless team in the 7A/6A-East, Marion hit six of their 15 shots in the first quarter, bolting out to a 17-10 lead after the initial period. However, Searcy dug into the lead and trailed just 27-22 at halftime. Marion took its biggest lead of the night at 31-22 with 6:36 left in the third quarter on a Latham three-pointer. The win puts Marion into the state tournament for the 11th-consecutive season, spanning Clay’s career at the school. Marion can still enter the tournament with a seed of No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3, but the Pats are currently in the second spot, and can clinch that position with a win against Mountain Home at Patriot Arena on Tuesday night. “I guess that means there’s some pressure off of our team now,” said Clay. “That’s the main objective as the season starts, is to get in. I’m proud of the fellas because we played hard on the road and we played to win.” Marion (12-9 overall, 7-3 7A/6A-East, 3-1 against 6A-East) was led by Latham’s 17 points, while Doss added five points while Kamari Marrs, Mike Davis and Warren scored four points apiece in the win. Doss and Ashton Mitchell paced the Pats with five rebounds apiece. Searcy got 10 points from Money and seven apiece from Kaleb Ramey and Malick Branch. The Lions played against Marion without their leading scorer, senior Jeremiah Clifton. Marion will host Mountain Home on Tuesday night with the girls game tipping at approximately 6 p.m.