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OAC champs: Pioneers dominate ONU for another conference banner

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Wheeler Marietta College’s Jason Ellis attempts a 3-pointer during Saturday’s Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament championship game against Ohio Northern at Ban Johnson Arena. Ellis scored 25 points, surpassing the 1,000-point mark for his career, in the Pioneers’ 100-49 victory.

Mission accomplished!

After all of the delays and uncertainty that COVID-19 brought this season, the Marietta College men’s basketball team overcame all obstacles and claimed the 2021 Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Championship in record-setting fashion Saturday evening in Ban Johnson Arena.

The Pioneers buried Ohio Northern, 100-49, to claim the fourth OAC Tournament crown in program history. The 51-point margin of victory is the most ever in the championship game.

Marietta finishes the shortened season with a 12-1 overall record, the OAC Regular Season Championship and the OAC Tournament Championship. Ohio Northern wraps up the season with a 5-7 record.

“Our guys have been dialed in all week and I was really confident that we were going to get it done today. This is just the third time in school history that we won both the regular season and tournament championships. I’m so proud of our guys,” Marietta head coach Jon VanderWal said. “We went the entire season without having one guy testing positive for COVID. They did a great job of doing what we asked them to do from a safety standpoint and they made a ton of sacrifices and they showed up every day and did the work.”

Jason Ellis, the Tournament Most Valuable Player, scored Marietta’s first 13 points of the game. His fourth point came on a 3-pointer and gave the senior his 1,000th career point. He is the 36th member of the men’s basketball 1,000-point club.

“This is my first time winning the conference tournament and it feels good. Everybody played so well,” Ellis said. “1,000 points was a personal goal of mine but I play basketball to celebrate with the team. We worked so hard this year and have been through a lot so it feels good to finally get this win.”

The Pioneers continued their strong start behind a 17-1 run, which put them on top 22-5 at the 11:22 minute mark of the half. The run was sparked by eight points from Ellis and highlighted by a pair of fast break layups from Jac Alexander and Ryan Reidy.

Later in the half, after Marietta held a 30-11 advantage, Ohio Northern went on a 10-0 run to trim the Pioneer advantage to 30-21, with six minutes to play in the period. Marietta halted the run when Sahmi Willoughby knocked down a layup.

The teams battled for the final six minutes of the half and Marietta took a 43-30 edge into the locker room at the intermission.

The Pioneers opened the second half on a 9-3 run to take a 52-33 lead three minutes into the half. The run was sparked by six points from Brett Martin, a 3 by Mason Lydic and the run forced a Polar Bear timeout.

Out of the break, the teams battled for five minutes of play and Marietta led, 61-38, with 12 minutes to play in the game.

Later in the half, the Pioneers stretched their lead to 77-40 on the strength of a 14-0 outburst. The run was sparked by three-point shooting, as Cooper Parrott, Ellis and Lukas Isaly all converted from behind the arc, with just under seven minutes to play in the game.

Marietta never lost momentum exploding for 57 second-half points and the Pioneers claimed the OAC Tournament Championship with a 100-49 win over Ohio Northern.

Ellis led Marietta with a game-high 25 points on 5-of-7 shooting from behind the arc. He also pulled down five rebounds. Tim Kreeger added 11 points and seven boards in the game. Lydic pitched in with 10 points, four rebounds and a pair of steals, and was named to the OAC All-Tournament team. Senior Kyle Matoszkia grabbed a career-best and game-high 17 rebounds in his final game in the Navy Blue and White.

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