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Pioneers earn a ‘must win’ vs. Baldwin Wallace

After taking it on the chin at Mount Union last Wednesday, Marietta College regrouped Saturday and rallied in the second half to defeat Baldwin Wallace, 85-76, at Ban Johnson Arena.

It was a must-win for the NCAA Division III sixth-ranked Pioneers (15-2 overall, 9-1 Ohio Athletic Conference), who are scheduled to play at Otterbein University (6-11, 3-7) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“We had to have it, because you can’t afford to drop two in a row,” said 13th-year MC men’s basketball coach Jon VanderWal. “Mount’s obviously really good and isn’t going to lose very many games.

“So, if we want to win this league, we’re going to have to go on a run.”

Both MC and the Mount (14-3, 9-1) share the top spot in the OAC. The Pioneers will get another crack at the Purple Raiders at the BanJo at 7 p.m. Feb. 12.

Beating BW was a step in the right direction. Good thing two halves were played, because Marietta was down double digits early on, led only briefly (25-24) late, and then “lost” the first 20 minutes of action, 42-35.

“Coaches really got on us in the locker room at halftime,” said 6-foot-7 pivot player Tim Kreeger, whose 8 first-half points helped keep the Pioneers close in the opening half.

“We talked about some of the things we weren’t doing,” Kreeger continued. “We weren’t as dialed in and running the game plan like we should.

“We just came out in the second half with a sense of urgency. We buckled down. We stuck to the game plan. We started listening to the coaches a little more. We really started putting together some good possessions and good stops – and played good defense in the second half.”

After the break, MC scored six unanswered points on a Kreeger putback, a Jake Montgomery stick back, and then a Kreeger hook to cut it to one. Game on.

Kreeger would finish the contest with a game-high 20 points, including a game-ending dunk.

“He seems to be getting better and better every game,” said VanderWal of his talented junior center.

But it was 5-10 sophomore guard Lukas Isaly, who delivered in the clutch late in the game. During a 13-0 run, the former River Pilot standout scored eight of his 14 second-half points and helped put the game on ice.

“Lukas’s been banged up,” VanderWal said. “The poor kid’s had about four different injuries. So, to do what he did today, dealing what he’s dealing with, it’s pretty remarkable.”

Isaly, who is averaging 12.4 points per game, has missed four games due to injuries this winter.

“Big bounce back win,” Isaly said. “We sruggled a lot at Mount (107-70).

“This was a good win for us against a really good BW team. Now, it’s on to the next one.”

The next one being in Westerville Wednesday.

MC downed the Cardinals, 78-56, in the first meeting in December.

Ron Johnston can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com

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