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Second half rally propels Marietta past Heidelberg

Photo by Kerry Patrick Marietta College’s Cooper Parrott, right, guards Heidelberg’s Treohn Watkins during a college men’s basketball game Saturday at Ban Johnson Arena.

MARIETTA — The difference between the first and second half was literally like night and day for the Marietta College in a battle of ranked teams Saturday afternoon at Ban Johnson Arena

Against the 19th ranked Student Princes from Heidelberg, the eighth-ranked Pioneers shot just 25 percent field from the floor while falling behind 42-30 at intermission. The majority of the chatter inside the MC locker room dealt with the offensive side of the ball and how the Pioneers could find their step.

According to MC coach Jon VanderWal, it wasn’t the most riveting of speeches but the results dramatically improved as the Pioneers scored an astounding 70 second half points in a 100-84 win.

“Halftime could not come soon enough,” VanderWal said after his club improved to 12-2 and 7-0 in the OAC. “We needed to get in there and regroup. Our struggles were way more on the offensive side. Offensively, they just took us out of everything.

“We were sped up and because we were sped up we didn’t execute anything. So we just calmed the guys down and talked about the finer details with execution.”

On the first possession in the second half, MC ran a set play for Jason Ellis, who knocked down a 3-pointer. What was once a drought, turned into a scoring fest. MC opened with an 11-3 run to climb back into the contest and kept the foot on the gas throughout the final 20 minutes.

Trailing 65-62, MC took the lead for good behind a 15-0 run, which included four 3-pointers — including three from Lukas Isaly, who scored a team-high 27 points.

“We knew Heidelberg would come out and give us their best shot, and they truly did — they played a great first half,” Isaly said. “About the five-minute mark of the first half, coach VanderWal said we will have to figure this stuff out then come back out in the second half and get the job done.

“We just came out and busted our butts in the second half. That’s what we did. It was a great crowd here tonight.”

A raucous crowd became just that more intense when Heidelberg was whistled for three technical fouls during one dead ball sequence and MC leading 87-79 with 2:06 remaining in regulation.

The series originated out of a what appeared to be a tie-up between opposing players. Instead, officials whistled a personal foul on Heidelberg. Student Princes coach Andy Bucheit, who once served as VanderWal’s assistant coach at MC, walked to mid-court and said his ‘peace’ — only to be escorted out of the gym after being assessed two technicals.

Isaly then converted 5-of-6 shots from the line to extend the gap to 93-79.

“Andy is one of my best friends, and this is a big game,” VanderWal said. “Emotions run high and I don’t think you want to see a game end that way. It happens to the best of us.

“With us being as good for so long, people want to win here so bad — this place has a tendency to do something to you.”

Five MC players scored in double figures, including Jason Ellis with 19 points. Tim Kreeger, Willoughby and Cooper Parrott each scored 12 points. Parrott scored 10 points in the second half, including seven in the first five minutes when MC’s offense got in sync.

Heidelberg (11-2, 6-2), which led by as many as 17 points in the first half, received 33 points from Emmanuel Perdue and 16 from Dylan Woods.

“Our kids showed the heart of champions,” VanderWal said. “They showed some resiliency and a lot of toughness. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Contact Kerry Patrick kpatrick@newsandsentinel.com

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