With beads of sweat still rolling down his forehead, Marion coach Lawrence Jordan was the picture of calmness post game after the Giants beat Angola in overtime, 55-52, to capture their first Regional title since 1986.
As ‘One Shining Moment,’ played over the speakers inside Columbia City High School, Jordan reflected on what the moment means for his Giant group.
“It has been difficult for us, but they have bought into what I have been trying to teach them,” Jordan said. “I’ve been conditioning them every day. It is just a buy in from the girls. I couldn’t be prouder of a bunch of girls than I am with them.”
Marion needed almost every bit of overtime to seal the win despite using their size to dominate the first half of the game. After jumping out 4-0, Marion saw Angola make a run at them quickly in the first, but they used their 3-2 zone to slow Angola from getting many shot attempts off and the size of 6-foot-6 RaShaya Kyle and 6-1 Jazmyn Turner limited Angola to one shot most possessions.
Offensively, Marion worked the ball to the basket early to the duo and turned what once was a 7-5 lead into a 16-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Marion would lead by 11 before Angola started to fight back in the second quarter on the strength of a Hanna Knoll three pointer. Kyle and Angola’s Lauren Leach would then trade baskets in the paint and Marion would lead just 20-14 at the half despite what, not on paper, felt like a dominating first half because of a 15 to 7 advantage in rebounding. However, Marion’s 11 first half turnovers — nine of which were forced by Angola’s defensive pressure — were enough to keep the Hornets close.
Turner and Kyle had combined for 15 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.
In Angola’s first possession of the second half, Leach found Knoll with a backdoor pass to cut the Hornet deficit to four. The Hornets had a chance to get closer when Knoll stole the inbounds as one of her five steals, but after being fouled she couldn’t knock down either free throw. Marion continued fighting inside to increase their lead, but Angola started to double Kyle in the post leading to a turnover with 1:30 left in the third that lead to a Knoll three pointer on the other end to cut the Marion lead to 27-26.
It was one of five Knoll three pointers on the night that led to her game high 28 points.
Marion led 32-29 after three quarters.
“The game is 32 minutes, there are going to be some peaks and valleys. I told the girls it is going to be really emotional,” Jordan said of his message when Angola made their second half runs. “Angola is a well coached team. Hanna is a knockdown shooter. I just told the girls to keep fighting, the game is 32 minutes, not 18 and not 20.”
Knoll tied the game at 32 with 6:13 left with another three, but Marion again struck back where they were best, inside, as Kyle rebounded a Turner missed free throw and powered the ball back into the basket. Angola took the lead for the first time with 4:54 to play on, you guessed in, a Knoll three pointer. Marion never lost faith. At the 3:08 mark, Turner stood calmly behind the three point line with the Giants trailing by two. When Angola didn’t show her respect and gave her space to shoot, she did just that and knocked down a three to give the Giants the lead back again.
After Leach and Knoll gave Angola the lead back, Turner threw the ball away with 59.3 seconds left and Angola would proceed to hit three of four foul shots on the hands of Sarah Duvendeck and Knoll to take a 46-40 lead.
Again answered Turner. Marion’s leading scorer, with 25 on the night, knocked down a three pointer with 35.2 seconds left. Down three points as the clock was ticking away in the final seconds, Marion’s Ellie Vermillion, who had not hit a three pointer all night, calmly took a shot to try and tie the game, but was fouled by Angola’s Kayla Fenstermaker. Vermillion knocked down all three free throws with seven seconds left to force overtime.
All of the sudden, the 32 minutes that Jordan had preached to his team had been extended.
“I’ve been doing my best to be calm. I was a player so I know about the situations. When you are a coach, there is not much you can do but put them in the position and let the girls do it.”
Just 14 seconds into the overtime session, Kyle hit one of two free throws to put Marion up 49-48 and they would not trail again. Vermillion, Fenstamaker and Markeisha Jackson would exchange points down the stretch leading to Turner going to the foul line with 7.3 seconds left, Marion up one. The senior would ultimately miss both of her foul shots, but rebounded her own second miss and added a layup to seal the Marion win and a rather elusive Regional title.
Turner added nine rebounds to her 25 points. Kyle added 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Fenstamaker added 11 for Angola and Leach scored eight.
Angola, for their part, had 12 steals and forced 17 of the 24 Marion turnovers.
The Giants will now face Class 3A top-ranked Northwestern next week in the semistate round.