By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
JONESBORO — Halfway to one of the school’s biggest wins in some years, the Marion Patriots hit the wall. Leading 26-22 at halftime at Don Riggs Hurricane Gymnasium, Marion lost seven turnovers and allowed Jonesboro to make 11 of 17 field goal attempts in the third quarter to fall behind 49-37 before losing 66-43. “We knew Marion would come in with something to prove tonight,” said Jonesboro head coach Wes Swift. “They came in with a lot of size, a ton of energy. They’re a good team. What we were able to do in the second half tonight was really good.” Marion’s strategy against Jonesboro last Friday centered around playing a 2-3 zone against the smaller Golden Hurricane. The presence of freshman Timothy Ceaser, along with existing post players like Mike Davis, Kamari Marrs, and Shaun Doss allowed them to trouble Jonesboro drives to the basket, while taking care of the glass. That strategy paid off as Marion led 16-13 after the first quarter and stole a 25-17 lead with 3:30 left in the second quarter on a Ceaser stick back before settling for a 26-22 lead at the half. In that span, Marion shot an efficient 11 of 20 from the field, while outrebounding Jonesboro 18-10. Marion also lost just four turnovers in the first half. The trip to the lockers changed the momentum drastically. Jonesboro hit the floor in the second half with a lightning-quick 11-0 run that was capped off by a Jayvon Landon dunk, and with 5:21 left in the third quarter, Jonesboro led 33-26. “We told them at halftime that we have to work harder,” Swift explained. “I just felt like Marion was playing harder than we were, especially on the boards. They’d have three guys crashing and we weren’t even matching their intensity. We have the guys that can be as athletic as them, but you’ve gotta want it more.” The run reached 18-2, forcing a Marion timeout with 3:21 left and Jonesboro ahead 40-28, and the hosts would lead 49-37 entering the fourth. Once there, the Jonesboro lead would peak at 23 points on two different occasions, including the final score. Jonesboro won for the 39th consecutive time in the 7A/6A-East, dating back to a loss at North Little Rock in January, 2014. “We don’t focus on that (the winning streak), but once we clinched the conference last week, we used it as motivation,” said Swift. “We wanted to match last year’s mark.” Marion (14-11 overall, 9-5 7A/6A-East) was led by A.J. Latham’s 11 points, nine from Doss and six from Elisha Hobbs. Doss would also lead Marion with 10 rebounds. Jonesboro (23-2 overall, 14-0 7A/6A-East) got 13 points and 10 rebounds from Landon, 11 from Kobe Wilson and nine from Desi Sills. State tournament notes: Marion will be the No. 2 seed from the 6A-East and will open its run at the state tournament on Wednesday, March 2 at 5:30 p.m. against Lake Hamilton in Russellville. If Marion should win, they would play the No. 2 seed from the 6A-South, El Dorado. El Dorado boasts a six-foot-ten-inch post player in Daniel Gafford and University of Arkansas commit Czar Perry at point guard. The Marion boys and girls game will be broadcast on FM 92.5 KWYNN.