Rivalry game: Marietta High girls down Warren 55-45

VINCENT -Building a double figure lead in the game of basketball is great for any team.

But you have to keep that lead and not let it slip away.

For the second time in three games to start the young season the Marietta Lady Tigers opened up a double-digit lead and then nearly watched it vanish before pulling out the victory as Marietta took a 55-45 win over the Warren Lady Warriors in Vincent Wednesday night.

“You have to learn how to win. That covers a lot of different areas. You have to learn how to play with the lead,” said Marietta girls’ basketball coach Mark Hannuksela. “We’ve had two situations now where we had double figure leads and let it get away.”

The Lady Tigers may have let that double figure lead narrow down to just two with four minutes to play in the game, but when it counted most Marietta found a way to make the clutch shots and pull out the victory.

After a three-pointer by Kendra Lynch for the Lady Warriors made the score 41-39 with 4:20 to play the Lady Tigers ran off 14 of the game’s final 20 points to preserve their second win of the season.

“It was a slow game,” Hannuksela explained. “In a possession by possession game a four point lead seems like a lot. It’s not, but it seems like a lot. The weight gets heavier every possession when you don’t score.”

By the end of Wednesday night’s game the Lady Warriors probably felt like they were carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, because there were plenty of possessions where they didn’t score.

Warren was just 16-of-51 from the field in the game, and that number is dramatically improved by senior Sarah Proctor’s 5-of-6 effort on the night and Warren’s strong fourth quarter where the Lady Warriors hit on 6-of-13 field goals.

“We couldn’t put it in the basket and it wasn’t hard shots. Most of them were wide open layups,” said Warren girls’ basketball coach Amy Colgrove. “You have nights like that and you have to rely on your defense and our defense was not good. That’s a bad combination.”

Despite their offensive woes in the game, the Lady Warriors actually enjoyed the lead a significant portion of the game’s opening stanza.

Proctor got the scoring started with a basket off an assist from Victoria Buzzard just seven seconds into play. Marietta took its first lead of the game, 6-4, on a basket by Alle Moore with 6:26 in the opening quarter.

Warren held a slim lead going into the second quarter, 12-11, on Buzzard’s steal and layup with 39 seconds in the first. That basket by Buzzard was just the second by either team in a span of over four minutes as the teams combined for 15 turnovers as emotions ran high to start the rivalry game.

“The team that turns it into a basketball game instead of a rivalry game is usually the team that does well,” Hannuksela said.

Marietta took the lead for keeps on Starr Johnson’s jumper off Lauren Martin’s assist with 5:36 before halftime. The Lady Tigers expanded their lead out to seven as time expired in the half when Johnson hit another jumper, this time off an assist from Taylor Smith.

The Lady Tigers shooting, which was nearly 50 percent through the first three quarters of play, helped them enjoy a 40-31 advantage heading into the fourth.

But as often happens when rivals Warren and Marietta meet, the outcome wasn’t entirely decided quite yet.

Down by nine, Warren found a spark on the offensive end and increased the pressure defensively against the Marietta guards, forcing eight turnovers in the fourth quarter.

“When we started turning up the pressure and playing our game is when we started getting back into it,” Colgrove said.

Lynch’s trifecta had the Lady Warriors feeling good as they trailed by just two, but Marietta found the answer at the other end of the court as offensive rebounds kept the possession alive and Johnson hit a mid-range jumpshot to put Marietta back ahead by four.

“She (Johnson) hit some big shots down the stretch. She played like a senior is supposed to play,” Hannuksela praised.

The lead stayed at four going into the game’s final 1:30 of play and the Lady Tigers preserved their lead with solid defense and rebounding to limit the Lady Warriors to just a single shot each time down the court.

And when those shots didn’t fall, Warren was forced to foul and send Marietta to the line where Johnson, Martin and Moore combined to hit 7-of-8 charity tosses in the final 42 seconds. All three would hit double figures in scoring as Martin led all players with 16 points and Johnson chipped in 13 while Moore had 10. “We’re the kind of team that it’s going to be a different person every night,” Hannuksela said.

Proctor and Buzzard each had 10 points for Warren in the loss.

“In perspective, it’s the third game of the year,” Colgrove said. “We’ve just got to clean some stuff up and move on.”