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Ellis lights it up: Junior scores 51 to lift Pios past John Carroll

Photo by Jordan Holland Marietta College’s Jason Ellis (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring 51 points in the Pioneers’ 104-98 victory over John Carroll Saturday at Ban Johnson Arena.

Jason Ellis put together an individual performance never before seen in Ban Johnson Arena.

The Marietta College junior poured in 51 points, three points shy of the program’s single-game record, and helped the Pioneers take down visiting John Carroll 104-98 Saturday.

“It feels great,” Ellis said. “I’ve worked for it and it feels like it’s finally paying off. I’ve struggled the last couple of games, so it feels good. I got emotional in the locker room, because it just feels like everything is paying off.”

Ellis was 13 for 17 from the floor, 8 for 11 from the 3-point line and 17 for 19 from the free-throw line.

“It was incredible,” said Marietta head coach Jon VanderWal. “We were just trying to figure out ways to get the ball in his hands. … I thought our guys did a great job getting him the ball. He just made so many plays.”

Photo by Jordan Holland Ellis drives to the basket.

The No. 8 Pioneers, who improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Ohio Athletic Conference, led 50-42 at halftime. Ellis had 20 points at the break, but wasn’t thinking about how many points he might end up with.

“I was just thinking about winning,” he said.

And that’s what they did.

The Pioneers increased their lead to 13, 59-46, at the 16:30 mark on Caleb Hoyng’s free-throw. Later, Lukas Isaly’s 3-pointer with 15 minutes left made it 64-49.

The Blue Streaks (5-2, 0-2) answered with a 13-0 run to get back within two, 64-62. Ryan Berger, who led JCU with 33 points, ignited the rally with 11 points in a two-minute, 14-second span.

From there, the two teams traded blows. JCU gained a 70-69 lead with 10:29 to go on Berger’s layup, and the Blue Streaks led by as many as four, 80-76, with 6:53 remaining.

Ellis drained a 3-pointer and then two foul shots to get to 40 points and give MC an 81-80 lead.

Berger put John Carroll back on top with a jumper, but Ellis fired right back with six straight points before Christian James knocked down a trey to put the Pioneers up 90-84 with 3:24 to go.

Marietta pulled away from there. Jimmy Berger got the Blue Streaks within five on a basket with 1:35 left, but Ellis responded with his eighth 3 of the game to make it 95-87. Mike Hall added a pair of free-throws before Ellis converted points No. 50 and 51 from the charity stripe with 32 second to go.

“Jason Ellis puts in more time in the gym and works harder than anybody out there,” VanderWal said. “He has the ability to get super hot. I knew he could do something like this, but did I expect him to do it today against John Carroll? No, I didn’t.”

VanderWal was impressed with the way his team responded after watching a 13-point second-half lead disappear.

“I thought out guys were really resilient as far the ebbs and flows of the game, not getting too down when things weren’t going our way,” he said. “We kind of weathered the storm a lot a bunch of times.”

Jimmy Berger scored 19 points while Sean Flannery and Emmett Chambers added 17 and 13, respectively.

Marietta got 12 points from James, 10 from Mason Lydic, nine from Hoyng and eight from Hall. John Carroll led in the turnover margin (16-7) but Marietta dominated on the boards, 46-30. Hall grabbed a game-high 10 boards.

“We’re both two really uptempo teams,” VanderWal. “We both like to play fast and we both play really hard and intense. And we’re both really good. You’re going to get these knockdown, dragout fights when the two of us get together.”

“It’s a rivalry,” added Ellis, who challenged the Pioneers’ all-time single-game scoring mark of 54 points set in the 1916-17 season by Don Whiting versus Fairmont State.

“We know we’re going to get their best shot, and they’re going to get our best shot. It’s always going to be a nail-biter, a great game. It was just like we expected it to be and we just had to pull it out.”

Jordan Holland can be reached at jholland@mariettatimes.com.

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