Pats’ coach missing in action in lopsided exit from state
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
RUSSELLVILLE — A wild day for the Marion Patriots was capped off with a season-ending loss to Lake Hamilton in the opening round of the 2016 Class 6A state tournament. For starters, veteran Marion head coach Irving Clay did not coach the game against Lake Hamilton. Marion athletic director Paul Johnston declined comment on Clay’s absence. As that event raged on off of the floor, Lake Hamilton took advantage of Marion’s potentially divided focus, taking down a lopsided 66-39 victory to send the Pats to their fourth consecutive loss in the state tournament. Marion has not won in the postseason since 2013. Lake Hamilton held Marion to just a 14 of 43 mark from the field, good for a 33 percent clip, while winning the rebounding battle 25-22 and the turnover war 12-4. “We had a good plan in place, but we just didn’t execute very well, for the most part,” said interim Marion head coach Dakota Weatherley. Lake Hamilton led 7-6 after the first quarter, but quickly opened that advantage up to 21-10 before half-time, closing the second stanza out on an 8-0 run. Early in the second quarter, Marion forward Mike Davis was whistled for a technical foul while battling for a loose ball. That would become a theme. Later in the same quarter, with Lake Hamilton ahead 34-15, a Wolves player took a charge and Lake Hamilton senior Stefan Dailey appeared to push Marion freshman center Timothy Ceaser. Ceaser responded by pushing Dailey back, and had to be restrained by coaches and teammates. For his role, Ceaser was assessed a technical and ejected from the game, while teammates Daylon Witt and Keyshawn Woods were also hit with technicals. Dailey also received a technical, but was not ejected. From there, it appeared as though Lake Hamilton could smell blood in the water. The hungry Wolves pushed their lead to 20 points on a lay-up by Nick Amerson and by the time the Marion bench picked up the team’s fifth technical of the night, Lake Hamilton was ahead 41-18 before settling for a 45-23 advantage after three quarters. In that frame, the Wolves scored 24 points and made seven of their 11 baskets. The Lake Hamilton lead peaked at 27 points on two different occasions, including the final score. “We didn’t stay focused a lot of the time out there,” Weatherley said. “Lake Hamilton had some really good sets that they ran, but we also lost their shooters too much.” Lake Hamilton canned seven of their 15 attempts from three-point range. The Wolves were led by Dewayne Matlock’s 17 points, while Larenz Nero hit for 16 and Jason Burks came up with 10. Marion got 15 from senior guard A.J. Latham, nine from junior forward Shaun Doss and six from senior guard Leaunte Johnson. The Pats will graduate 10 seniors from this team. Marion ends its season 14-12 overall with a 9-5 record in the 7A/6A-East.