With each passing contest, Jalen Blackmon moves closer to history.
Marion’s star senior point guard achieved another significant milestone, moving into second place on the all-time Marion boys basketball scoring list, surpassing Giant legend and three-time state champion Jay Edwards.
However, Blackmon’s historic performance did not translate to a victory.
A sluggish performance overall, combined with several uncharacteristic breakdowns late in the contest, proved to be the difference, as the Giants fell to longtime rival Anderson 59-55 on Tuesday evening.
For the Indians, it marked their first victory over Marion since 2013.
Entering the contest, the Giants were coming off hard-fought, physical affairs against Arsenal Tech and Crispus Attucks, and while those fatiguing contests certainly played a part in their lethargic play, Marion Head Coach James Blackmon backed away from excuses.
“I just felt like, for a conference game, we needed to find some energy,” Marion Head Coach James Blackmon said. “I was watching our guys all night…and thinking we would wake up sooner or later, [but we didn’t.]”
Offensively, the Giants struggled, failing to find any sort of flow. Many shots were taken out of the rhythm of the offense, and Anderson’s dominance on the glass led to a plethora of one-and-done possessions. For the game, Marion shot just 19-of-56 (34 percent) from the field and seven-of-20 (35 percent) from beyond the arc.
“I feel like on both ends, we were a little stagnant,” Blackmon said. “I still want our guys to take shots…[but not] those types of shots. I felt like we didn’t have our legs up under us. We were just shooting the ball to be shooting it. You can’t let a team like Anderson stick around.”
In the rebounding battle, Anderson dominated the Giants. For the game, Anderson outrebounded Marion 47-28, 26-12 in the first two quarter and had three players – Tyrelle Wills, Kedric Anderson, and Jalen Murphy – each finish with 10 or more rebounds.
“I told our guys that if we continue to play soft… [they realize] that they can play with us,” Blackmon said. “As the game went on, they gained with more confidence.”
The game was close from the opening tip, as neither team ever led by more than seven points. Anderson opened the game on a 9-2 run, but eight first quarter points by Rodney Gipson kept the Indians from fully grabbing the momentum.
Blackmon opened the frame with a three, tying the contest at 19-19. After that, the advantage changed hands four times, and a K’Veonne Jackson triple in the final 93 seconds put the Giants up 31-29 at the halftime break.
Neither team created much separation in the third quarter, combining for just 19 points, but five straight points from Blackmon to end the frame gave Marion a 40-39 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
In the first 5:49 of the period, the Giants seemed to finally gain control. Freshman Taden Metzger scored eight points in the quarter, sparking a 13-6 surge that gave the Giants their largest lead of the contest at 53-47.
But from there, it all unraveled. After the Indians’ defense forced several crucial Marion turnovers, Wills hit back-to-back threes, the first two triples of the game for Anderson, to tie the game at 55-55. And with 12 seconds to play, Marcus Armstrong, who had not scored since the early stages of the third quarter, drove into the lane and scored the game-winning basket.
“When you turn the ball over, you don’t execute down the stretch, and you play like you’re lost out there with no purpose…that hurts you,” Blackmon said. “That will make you lose the ball game.”
For the Indians, Wills led the way with 19 points to go along with 11 rebounds, while Murphy finished with 14 points and 11 boards. Anderson ended the night with 10 points.
Blackmon finished with 18 points for the Giants, 12 points below his average, while Metzger finished with 13 off the bench. Gipson collected nine points and six rebounds, while Josh Balfour added seven to go along with six boards.
For Blackmon, there is only one person left to overcome – his father, who also happens to be his coach. He needs just 28 more points to etch his legacy.
Coach Blackmon always believed that his sons would beat his all-time scoring record, one that he has held since he graduated from Marion in 1983, and he is proud that his youngest is on the cusp of doing just that.
“My record has been there for 20-some years, so that’s not something that happens overnight,” Blackmon said. “When you ponder over that for a minute, and you think about it, that’s a big move. For him to achieve that milestone, it’s incredible.”
Marion will be back in action this weekend with a pair of road games against Lafayette Jefferson and Lewis Cass, and Blackmon knows that his team must come out with energy and enthusiasm in order to get back into the win column.
“We need to understand that if we don’t come to play, and if we disrespect the game of basketball, anybody can beat you,” Blackmon said. “Everybody ties their shoes the same way, and the court is the same size. So if we don’t come to play and understand what’s across our chest…and match that intensity, then we [will] put ourselves in a dogfight.”