Jalen Blackmon further etched his name into the record books, becoming the second all-time leading scorer in the history of the North Central Conference with his performance against Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian.
However, Blackmon’s tremendous outing failed to translate to a win, as the Braves scored 50 points in the second half to secure an 87-71 triumph at the Bill Green Athletic Arena on Tuesday night.
Blackmon dominated from start to finish, scoring 39 points on 15-of-27 shooting from the field and seven-of-11 from beyond the arc to go along with six rebounds. Sitting at 2,064 career points, Blackmon needs just 53 points to pass the legendary Steve Alford to become the NCC’s all-time leading scorer, adding to what has already been a remarkable high-school career.
“He is just going out there and trying to improve every single game,” Marion Head Coach James Blackmon said of his son. “When you think about what he is accomplishing, it says a lot. With some of the players [who have played in the NCC,] it speaks for itself.”
As the season has progressed, Josh Balfour has stepped up his game on both ends of the floor, and his budding confidence was on full display Tuesday. He was aggressive to the hoop, finishing well through contact, and shot the ball efficiently from all over the floor.
“He played with a lot of confidence tonight,” Blackmon said. “That’s good moving forward, so I’m glad to see Josh get it going [again] tonight. If he is playing on both ends of the court, that makes our team better.”
While Blackmon and Balfour shined on the offensive end, the Giants’ defensive play marked their demise.
In the first half, the Giants did an excellent job of containing Blackhawk star center Caleb Furst, holding the Purdue-commit to just six points.
But while they held Furst under wraps, Blackhawk’s shooters found more open space with which to work, and they took advantage. Shooting guard Callan Wood, not known for his scoring, scored 10 in the opening frame, helping Blackhawk take an 18-13 lead after the first eight minutes.
The two teams continued to battle in the second frame, with neither team leading by more than four points. After scoring just two points in the first quarter, Blackmon began to find his rhythm, scoring 14 in the second quarter, while Balfour, who knocked down a pair of threes in the opening frame, scored seven.
Blackmon’s second three of the period briefly gave the Giants the lead at 19-18, but a Blackhawk bucket on their ensuing possession gave the Braves the advantage back for good. Marion was able to keep the contest within two possessions the rest of the first half, but the Braves went into the locker room with a 37-34 edge.
After not attempting a shot in the second quarter, Wood picked up right where he left off, making all four of his three-point attempts and turning a three-point lead into a nine-point cushion for the Braves at the end of the third quarter. Wood finished the contest with 22 points, 17 more than his scoring average.
“We let a guy who averaged five points a game get 22 tonight. You’ve got to pick your [poison], and we picked our poison by letting [Wood] shoot,” Blackmon said. “He made some shots in the second half that got them going and [allowed them to] get that little cushion.”
Additionally, Furst began to find his rhythm after halftime. While Wood was making it rain from the perimeter, Furst took over in the post, scoring seven points and enforcing his will underneath the glass.
“We definitely wanted to eliminate second chance shots,” Blackmon said. “The first half was great, but in the second half, we let him get those high percentage shots.”
The Braves put the contest away in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Giants 17-6 in the opening 4:38 of the period to build a double-digit advantage they would hold the rest of the way.
Four of the Braves’ five starters finished in double figures. Along with Wood’s 22 points, Furst collected a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds. As a team, the Braves dominated the glass, outrebounding the Giants 37-19, while shooting 22-of-33 (66 percent) from the floor in the second half.
Balfour finished with 18 points and four rebounds for the Giants, while Matthew Goolsby scored six and both Jermaine Woods and Rodney Gipson scored three.