Marietta College is hoping for a little post-Christmas success.
The 15th-ranked Pioneers will play in the Defiance College Purple and Gold Tournament Sunday and Monday. Defiance, Ohio Wesleyan and Albion are the other schools that will be in attendance.
The four teams have a combined record of 28-6, so the competition is expected to be fierce.
JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times
Marietta College’s A.J. Ireland (left) attempts a 3-point shot as a Muskingum player defends during a game last week at Ban Johnson Arena.
"It's a big, big tournament for us," said MC head coach Jon VanderWal. "All four teams are really good."
VanderWal said the Pioneers will return to Ban Johnson for practice Thursday and Friday after a week off, then leave Saturday for Defiance and practice there.
The Pios are off to an 8-1 start this season. They are coming off a 79-70 victory over Muskingum at Ban Johnson Arena. Marietta has won four games in a row since an inspiring effort against No. 2 Wooster that resulted in an 81-78 loss. What's been most impressive about those four games is that the Pioneers averaged 92 points without the services of start point guard Tyler Hammond. Hammond is expected to return to the Pioneers in Defiance after serving a four-game suspension. Hammond's return will add approximately 11 points and six assists to an already potent lineup.
Andy Dollman took over the starting point guard role while Hammond was out and did a fine job. Dollman leads the team with 12.3 points per game and is shooting 53 percent from the floor and 57 percent from behind the 3-point line.
"We're happy with where we're at," Dollman said after the Muskingum victory, "but we've definitely got to get better. We've got a big tournament coming up in Defiance."
RaNeal Ewing, a wing, moved into the starting lineup four games ago and is contributing 12.2 markers per contest. Forward A.J. Davis and guard Brennan McKean are each averaging 10 a game. Davis is Marietta's top rebounder with 52 boards in nine games, while McKean leads MC in 3s made with 21.
Garrett Stephenson is averaging 8.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in the post, while Eddy Grenert (6.8 points per game), Luis Garcia (6.4) and Andy Stegman (4.8) have produced off the bench. Keith Richardson is third on the team with 18 assists while serving as a backup to Hammond and Dollman at the point.
Marietta will square off against Ohio Wesleyan at 5 p.m. Sunday. Albion and Defiance will play each other at 7 p.m. on Sunday. The losers of each contest will play a consolation game at 5 p.m. Monday while the winners will play in the championship at 7 p.m.
Wesleyan will present a challenge for the Pioneers. The Bishops are led by Dre White, who was recently named North Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Week after averaging 15 points in wins against Anderson and Hiram.
"It's a big game as far as regional rankings go," VanderWal said. "If we could come out of Defiance 2-0 in that tournament, that would be huge for us down the stretch."
NOTES: Like Marietta, Wesleyan was defeated by Wooster this season, a 79-71 defeat on Dec. 4. ... Wesleyan defeated Marietta 76-55 in the Shrine Tournament championship last season.