Sports Talk: Finer details crucial

With 24 seconds remaining in the contest, Jon VanderWal had a little sideline chat with his star J.J. Martin, who was still on the court.

While Marietta College was leading Wilmington College by 11 (96-85) and on the verge of winning its fourth straight game, the sixth-year Pioneer frontman was still coaching his navy blue and white cagers.

“I wanted us to get the heck out of here,” said VanderWal after MC defeated the Quakers, 98-87, in an Ohio Athletic Conference men’s basketball game at Ban Johnson Arena Saturday. “I wanted us to finish the game and play really strong. I think he thought he got fouled. I just thought he could’ve played a little stronger with the basketball.”

If Martin, who finished with a game-high 32 points, got hacked, the refs didn’t call it.

“I thought they’d (Wilmington) fouled me, and I was going to get two easy ones,” Martin said.

If Martin had gone to the line and converted two freebies, it would have been a Pioneer career best for the Huntington, W.Va. native.

“It’s always good to break a career-high, but…,” said Martin, whose career best is 33 points, set in a 97-90 MC win against Mount Union on Jan. 9.

VanderWal said he was still coaching “the finer details of the game and how we want this thing to operate.”

“We’re going to do that whether we’re up 50 or down 50,” the MC boss continued, “or whether there’s three seconds left in the game or 30 minutes left in the game.”

While Martin didn’t get one career best, he did get another when he grabbed 13 rebounds.

“He had a great day,” VanderWal said. “He’s really becoming a big time player.”

And, Marietta is really becoming a team to be reckoned with in the OAC. With the victory against Wilmington and Capital University’s 79-67 loss to Baldwin-Wallace on Saturday, the Pioneers are now all alone atop the league standings.

Next up, MC is scheduled to play at Otterbein University in Westerville at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Pioneers routed the Cardinals, 90-62, in the first meeting at BJA in December.

“We’ve just got to keep winning games,” VanderWal said. “We don’t talk about that stuff (OAC standings ) a whole lot. We just try to focus on our next opponent, and go game by game. That’s all we can do.”

Obviously, VanderWal’s coaching of the finer details is getting through to his team.

Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com