On Wednesday night at Marshall, the Statesmen blew a late lead in regulation against the National District-leading Edison Eagles, but recovered in overtime to prevail, 66-62. The loss was Edison’s first in district play.
The National District has had a difficult time getting in games due to COVID protocols. Both teams hadn’t played a ton of basketball in recent weeks for that reason and were coming off lay-offs. While Marshall and Edison didn’t perform as efficiently as their coaches might have preferred, both teams showed a lot of heart and determination in a see-saw battle that went down to the wire.
“It was effort, and these kids played with passion tonight,” Marshall Coach Jerry Lin said. “This has been such an unusual year. To play with the passion that we did without the home crowd…the kids found a way to self-create the energy we had to have.”
Marshall played well early, racing to an 8-2 early lead. The Eagles answered with a 15-6 run of their own, capped when sophomore guard Ruben Garces found junior swingman Michael Montano Best open for a three-pointer. Marshall fought back and led at halftime, 25-23.
The Statesmen (3-4, 3-5) went on a 10-0 run early in the third quarter, sparked in part by the stellar play of senior guard Ilias Hwang. Hwang shocked the Eagles with two buckets off steals and then registered a beautiful assist to complete the run.
“We just had to bring our intensity level up and we did,” Hwang said of his team’s run.
The Eagles (6-1, 6-2) matched Marshall’s intensity with some of their own, and slowly started to claw their way back. Montano Best (17 points) continued to hit shots, and senior big man Samuel Carpenter (16 points, nine rebounds) was successful attacking the smaller Statesmen at the rim. In addition, Edison coach Terry Henderson got some key second half contributions from his bench, with senior guard Nebeyu Samuel (11 points) and sophomore forward William Marik supplying a ton of energy.
“Terry made a great job making defensive adjustments and putting so much ball pressure on us,” Lin said. “And pressure on the glass. Their big guys [Carpenter and Nader Chirchi] are good.”
A Carpenter driving lay-up cut the Marshall lead to two late, and the Eagles got a break when Marshall senior Andrew Heiden missed the front end of a one-and-one. Heiden, an excellent free throw shooter, had made his previous eight charity stripe attempts. The Eagles then tied the game with one second left as Samuel hit a driving lay-up.
The game headed to overtime, and it seemed like the visitors had all the momentum. Undaunted, Marshall came out in the extra period strong. Hwang found fellow senior Gavin Bundy open for a three-pointer right out of the gate. Soon after, senior Marshall forward Patrick Margiotta, who hadn’t scored in regulation, picked up a loose ball and went coast-to-coast, faking Carpenter and Chirchi up into the air and drawing an old-fashioned three-point play.
As both teams were in the double bonus there were a lot of free throws shot in overtime. The Statesmen made more than Edison at the line, with Heiden reverting to his usual almost-automatic self there. The verdict was sealed.
It seems Lin might have channeled a little Phil Jackson to reverse the Edison momentum going into overtime.
“I just told them to close their eyes for just five seconds and just breathe,” he said, when asked what he told his team after regulation. “Play the new overtime like an entirely new game. I thought that’s what they did well, they reset themselves.”
A laughing Lin then added: “Not saying the Zen thing always works but I think it did this game.”
It did indeed. Hwang and Heiden led the way with 16 points apiece. Hwang added six assists and Heiden finished 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Bundy and junior forward Adien Hrnjez, both off the bench, also had big games for Lin’s team. Bundy had 15 points while Hrnjez added 10 points and seven boards.
“It was a hard-executed game against a tough team but overall I think we did what he had to do,” said Hwang. “At the end of the day it’s about listening to coach and executing and we did that today.”
“Our seniors are stepping up,” Lin said. “I’m really happy for them.”
Despite the disappointing loss and some uneven play, Edison Coach Henderson wasn’t entirely upset with his team’s effort, especially off a short lay-off.
“They fought back and I told them I was proud of them,” he said.
all stats are unofficial
|Threes: Heiden 2-3, Hwang 1-2, Bundy 1-3, Nassif 0-1, Hrnjez 0-2, Mazur 0-2, Lenert 0-3|
|Threes: Samuel 1-1, Marik 1-2, Montano Best 1-4, Morgan 0-1, Robinson 0-1, Rogers 0-2, Graces 0-3|