College basketball: MC men defeat Capital

The Marietta College men’s basketball team seemingly has been dealing with adversity ever since the opening tip-off of the 2013-2014 season.

The Pioneers were once again dealt a tough blow in Wednesday night’s Ohio Athletic Conference match up against Capital, and once again the Pioneers found a way to overcome as they scored an 82-72 victory over the Crusaders.

MC guard Andy Dollman looked unstoppable in the games first 16 minutes as the junior scorched the Capital defense for 10 points before suffering what appeared to be a serious elbow injury late in the first half.

“It was pretty disheartening because Andy has been playing so well,” said Pioneer head coach Jon VanderWal of the potential loss of his second point guard of the season. “Capital had no answer for him early on.”

With the game tied at 34-34 and just four minutes left in the half, Dollman reached in to try and strip a Crusader of the basketball and immediately grabbed his elbow and left the court in what appeared to be an extreme amount of pain.

A.J. Davis scored back-to-back buckets for Marietta late in the half before Curt Geise drained a triple to give Capital a 40-38 lead.

The Pioneers regained the lead just before the buzzer sounded when Brennan McKean connected from long range with an assist from RaNeal Ewing to send MC to the intermission clinging to a 41-40 lead.

With Dollman lost for the game, VanderWal turned to 5-foot-8 Keith Richardson to run the point and the freshman delivered in a big way to open the second half.

Richardson got things started with a free throw and then found an open Andy Stegman under the basket to give the Pio’s a 44-40 lead. After a Tyrel Jackson three-pointer closed the lead to two, Ewing drove strong to the hole and Richardson followed with a pair of drives, one resulting in a basket and the second in a pair of free throws which pushed the Pioneer lead to 52-44.

“Keith (Richardson) really didn’t have a very strong first half so we challenged him at halftime,” said VanderWal. “He had a great second half. He was really aggressive and made a lot of big plays for us.”

The Pioneers struggled to open some daylight between them and the Crusaders but finally a Luis Garcia three-ball and an A.J. Ireland score made it a nine-point game with 10 minutes to play.

Capital closed the lead back to six with six minutes to play on a pair of free throws by Geise and an inside score from Ben Jackson, but the Pioneers took care of business at the charity stripe to stifle any thoughts of a Crusader come back. “We’ve been shooting real well from the free-throw line and that’s a real big reason we have been winning games,” said VanderWal, whose team connected on 22-of-25 (88 percent) free throw attempts in the game.

Capital would not manage to get any closer than six points the rest of the way as Marietta College secured their seventh conference win of the season in nine tries.

Davis led a very balanced scoring attack for the Pios with 13 points, while Ewing finished with 11.

“We struggled a little bit in the first half but came out firing in the second,” said Davis, who also pulled down six rebounds. “We had a lot of people step up and it’s a good team win.”

Dollman and McKean reached double figures with 10 points apiece, while Richardson contributed five assists and nine points.

Andrew Bolka, Geise, and Charles English each finished with 13 points for Capital (7-9, 4-5 OAC) who played without leading scorer A.J. Dixon, who didn’t make the trip to Marietta for undisclosed reasons. VanderWal had high praise for his team’s ability to remain focused on a very tough night.

“We’ve got a very resilient group of guys and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said VanderWal. “They were down in the locker room at halftime knowing Andy was hurt but I was pleased with the way they responded in the second half.” The Pioneers, who improved to 12-4 on the season, will travel to Wilmington Saturday for another pivotal OAC contest.