Sports Talk: MC’s terrific trio to lead the way in NCAA tournament

After Marietta College rallied to defeat visiting Mount Union, 80-76, in overtime to claim the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament men’s basketball championship last Saturday night, Tyler Hammond was named the event’s Most Valuable Player.

The 5-foot-11 junior point was very instrumental in helping the Pioneers stage a second-half comeback, finishing with a game-high 23 points, including a rare four-point play, which gave his team its first lead of the contest.

Not surprisingly, the southpaw-shooting Hammond, who is the epitomy of a team player, was modest about receiving the award.

“The MVP could’ve gone to Jacob Owens,” he said. “It could’ve gone to J.J. Martin.

“Honestly, it could’ve gone to the whole team. I mean, from the 15th guy on the bench, they were cheering us on the whole time.”

Hammond. Owens. Martin. Each is an All-OAC honoree.

Marietta College’s terrific trio will now be leading the Pioneer cagers in NCAA Division III tournament play at 7 p.m. Saturday when they face host Dickinson (Pa.) College in an opening-round game.

If the Red Devils of Carlisle, Pa., didn’t know who Hammond, Owens, and Martin are before tip-off, they certainly will once the game gets underway.

Each one is capable of having a big game – all on the same night. And, that’s got to be pretty scary for opponents.

Take for instance the game against visiting Wilmington College in an OAC Tournament semifinal on Feb. 21. Owens scored 29 points, and Hammond and Martin added 27 points apiece as the Pioneers won 111-106 in triple overtime.

That’s a lot of firepower.

Two nights later, the threesome combined for 59 points, or nearly three-quarters of the Pioneer point total, in the win against the Purple Raiders.

“When we hit a couple of shots, we can really get it going,” said the 6-5 Martin, who had a double-double with 15 markers and 15 rebounds. “That’s all we had to do. We knew we had to keep scoring and making plays.”

When Martin says “we,” he’s talking about the MC team as a whole.

But there’s no question that without the combined efforts of the “trio,” the Pioneers probably don’t clinch a berth in the NCAA tournament.

“It feels awesome,” said Owens of playing in the NCAA tournament for the second time in the last three years. “That’s what we play for and work hard for.”

Owens, who tallied 21 points versus Mount Union, paused and smiled.

“Our backcourt is the same from my sophomore year,” the MC senior guard continued. (Both Owens and Hammond, a freshman two years ago, were the guards. And, Martin was the sixth man on that team.)

“We have experience in the Sweet 16, and…that experience, plus the new guys, is going to help us out,” Owens said.

Anyway you look at it, though, as the terrific trio goes, so go the Pioneers.

You’ve just got to like MC’s chances.

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