Throughout the illustrious history of Marion Giants boys basketball, the program has seen its fair share of fabled, talented, and electrifying players perform in the hallowed halls of the Bill Green Athletic Arena.
There was Charles “Stretch” Murphy, who led the Giants to their first state championship in 1926. Fifty years later, Dave Colescott, with his shaggy hair and sweet shot, helped the Giants win two straight in1975 and 1976.
Then came the “Dream Team:” Jay Edwards, Lyndon Jones, Kyle Persinger, Eric Ewer, and Daric Keys, who were at the heart of one of the greatest and most beloved dynasties in Indiana high school basketball history, winning three straight championships in a row, a feat that has not been accomplished since. Zach Randolph took the mantle in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, leading the Giants to their first state championship in 13 years in his senior year. Randolph went on to have a renowned NBA career, one that should end with him being enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame.
And, of course, there was James Blackmon, Sr.
From 1980-1983, Blackmon dazzled the city of Marion with his athleticism, his charisma, and his scoring ability. His No. 24 jersey is still iconic in the eyes of Marion fans to this day. In his senior season in 1982-1983, he scored 914 points,before ending his high-school career with a legendary 52-point performance against Anderson in the Fort Wayne Semi-State.
When he graduated, he was Marion’s all-time leading scorer with 1,897 points.
“Every single time I stepped on the court, I tried to play with passion. I understood what that tradition of Marion Giants’ basketball means,” Blackmon said. “To be the all-time leading scorer, and when you think about those names that came through here: Jay Edwards…Lyndon Jones…Zach Randolph, those aren’t just local names. When you throw those names out, people know those guys’ names nationally. It’s a great honor.”
Later in life, he moved into the coaching ranks, and saw his three sons follow in his footsteps. James Blackmon, Jr. only spent one year at Marion, but he scored over 2,000 points in his high-school career, and holds the single-game scoring record with 54 points. His middle son, Vijay, played a key role on the 2016 state championship team, and scored over 1,300 points in a Marion uniform.
But from the moment that his youngest son, Jalen, took the court for the first time as a freshman, anyone who saw him play knew he would be a special player.
And on Friday night, with his brother and mother in the stands, and his father coaching him from the sideline, the youngest Blackmon etched his name into the record books, becoming Marion’s all-time leading scorer in a 72-62 Giants’ victory over the Logansport Berries.
“All the great players that have been through here, and I’m number one? It’s crazy to me,” Blackmon said. “I still can’t believe it, [but] I am just so thankful. I love everybody in the Marion community.
They’ve always pushed me and helped me be the best I can be.”
Needing just 28 points to break the record, Blackmon entered the fourth quarter with 26. He missed his first two shots, but with 3:49 left to play in the contest, he calmly stepped to the charity stripe and hit a pair of free throws, setting off a celebration that will be remembered for years to come.
“Honestly, I had zero clue that I was going to pass it [there,]” Blackmon said with a chuckle. “But it was better that it caught me by surprise I guess.”
His teammates mobbed him at center court. The crowd erupted in cheers. And most poignantly, a father embraced his son, passing the proverbial torch.
“It was a great moment,” Blackmon said. “I thought his teammates were really happy for him, and it shows how close knit our team is. Everybody was happy. It was a special moment. I never thought it would come down, but if my record were coming down, I don’t mind sitting behind my son.”
While Blackmon made history, the Giants, as a whole, put forth another strong performance against their longtime NCC rival. Blackmon got the ball rolling in the first quarter, scoring 13 points, while Matthew Goolsby found success in the paint, scoring eight as the Giants took a 26-16 lead after one quarter of play.
Logansport, a fundamentally sound and physical team, began to find their offensive rhythm in the second quarter, trimming Marion’s advantage and eventually taking the lead with a minute to play in the first half. A basket from Josh Balfour and a pair of free throws from Blackmon helped the Giants end the quarter on a 4-0 run and take a 37-34 lead into halftime.
Blackmon scored 11 points in the third quarter, but the Berries kept fighting, trimming the advantage to one possession with less than a minute to play. However, a three-point play from Blackmon and a three- pointer at the buzzer from freshman Taden Metzger put the Giants back up 57-51 heading into the final frame.
After Blackmon broke the record, the Berries made one final push, but the Giants scored the last six points of the contest, securing the victory. Balfour, who has continued to make tremendous strides in all facets of his game, finished with 13 points, while Goolsby scored 12 and finished with 10 rebounds. Metzger and Cubie Jones each finished with five points.
For Logansport, Caleb Crook led the way with 16 points, while Noah Lange scored 14. Malachi Pearson and Garrett Barron both finished with 10.