College basketball: Pioneer men shine in Shrine

After nearly letting its opponent off the hook Friday night, Marietta College would do no such thing Saturday against Piedmont in the 43rd annual Marietta Shrine Tournament championship game.

The Pioneers jumped out to a 37-21 lead at halftime and kept the pedal to the metal in the second half to win by a count of 79-58.

“It was great to see us learn from our mistakes (Friday) night,” said Pioneers head coach Jon VanderWal. “It was funny. I walked into the locker room at halftime and said ‘Okay fellas. We get a second chance at this. We were up 16 at the half (Friday). We’re up 16 again at half (Saturday). Let’s make sure the second go-around is a heck of a lot different.”

Eddy Grenert led Marietta with 13 points and two blocks. Tyler Hammond, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, contributed 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists for a solid all-around effort. A.J. Davis added 11 markers, Andy Dollman chipped in with nine and Brennan McKean and RaNeal Ewing each had eight.

Overall the Pioneers were 28-for-70 (40 percent) from the floor and 19-for-22 (86.4 percent) from the foul line, but shot just 19 percent (4-for-21) from beyond the arch.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well at all, yet we still win by 20,” VanderWal said. “I thought our defensive rebounding was 100 times better (Saturday). It just needs to continue to be that way.”

Marietta was able to overcome the poor long-range shooting performance by giving a stellar defensive effort. MC held the Lions to 18-of-60 from the floor and forced 18 Piedmont turnovers.

“I thought our kids played great defense,” VanderWal said. “A lot better than (Friday) night. And our rebounding was better.

“You go 4-for-21 from 3, you’re probably in trouble, but because our rebounding and defense was solid, we were able to withstand it.”

Marietta, which improved to 2-0, claimed the Shrine title after falling to Ohio Wesleyan in the championship game last year. Prior to that, the Pios had won it the previous two seasons.

Marietta scored the first eight points of the game, four on free throws by Hammond, before Piedmont called a timeout. The Lions then came out and scored the next six points, five from Alton Honors, to make it an 8-6 game at the 13:38 mark.

Two minutes later, a layup by Davis made it 16-9 before Piedmont’s Brian Edwards answered with a trey to make it 16-12.

After Hammond assisted McKean on a layup, Edwards hit a 2-point jumper followed by a pair of foul shots Chase England to make it a 2-point game at 18-16.

That’s when the Pios really turned it on, outscoring the Lions 19-5 the remainder of the half.

After two free throws by Dollman, A.J. Edwards and McKean nailed back-to-backs 3s to stretch the lead to 26-16.

Later, a layup and a jumper by Ewing made it 37-20.

Marietta learned its lesson from the season-opener against Ohio Christian and did not take its foot off the gas coming out of halftime.

After a 3-pointer by Piedmont’s Safari Smith cut it to 48-35, Marietta went on a 16-5 run to make it a 22-point game with just 8:24 remaining. Seven straight points from Grenert helped pace the rally for the Pios.

Later, a 3-pointer by McKean off an assist from Dollman made it 70-48 to all but ice it.

Piedmont was led by Honors’ 13 points. Jessie Jenkins, Chris Meeks and England all grabbed seven rebounds.

Marietta will go on the road for the first time this season Wednesday when it takes on Waynesburg at 7 p.m.