Jalen Blackmon put on a show at the Bill Green Athletic Arena for Marion in their Sectional 7 quarterfinal, while the Madison-Grant Argylls battled valiantly against Blackford in Sectional 39.
However, in the end, the 2020-2021 season came to an end for both squads. The Giants fell to longtime NCC rival Lafayette Jefferson 83-74, while the Argylls suffered a 63-53 defeat at the hands of the Bruins.
Blackmon, after scoring 48 points against Hamilton Southeastern and 52 against Fort Wayne Snider, made history in his final high school game, tying Tim Leavell’s single-game scoring record with 55 points against the Bronchos. Blackmon shot an incredible 11-of-18 from the field and seven-of-14 from beyond the arc, while adding 12 makes from the free-throw line.
However, Blackmon’s heroics could not save Marion from a first-round playoff exit.
“It was a great game,” Blackmon said. “I thought our gameplan got them stagnant a little bit, but they are a great team. I knew certain players were going to step up, and they stepped up at the right time.”
The Giants scored the first four points of the contest and led 6-3 with 5:22 to play in the opening quarter, but the Bronchos ended the stanza on a 14-4 run to take a 17-10 advantage into the second quarter. Lafayette Jefferson star Brooks Barnhizer scored 11 points in the first eight minutes.
After scoring just four points in the first, Blackmon found his groove in the second, scoring 19 and twice cutting the Bronchos’ lead to one possession. However, Lafayette Jefferson never lost their advantage, as Barhizer and Ashton Beaver combined for 15 points to help the Bronchos take a 36-31 lead into halftime.
Jacob Collicott slammed the door on the Giants in the third quarter, knocking down five of his six three-point attempts for 15 points and giving the Bronchos a 59-51 lead. Blackmon single-handedly kept the Giants afloat, but they were unable to get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Blackmon finished his high school career with 2,269 points, the 18th-highest leading scorer in Indiana boys basketball history.
And while his dad revelled in his success, he was also proud of his team for all of the hard work they put in throughout the course of the season.
“I’m just proud of our guys,” Blackmon said. “We had a great attitude on the bench. Everybody was locked in and focused and supporting their teammates. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys.”
Rodney Gipson finished with eight points for the Giants, while Jermaine Woods finished with six. For the Bronchos, Barnhizer scored 27 points.
In Blackford, the Argylls got punched in the mouth early, as the Bruins built an early 18-11 lead after the first quarter. However, Madison-Grant bounced back, using a 12-0 run between the first and second quarters to take a 20-18 lead with 5:42 to play in the first half. Later in the frame, five points from Grant Brown, along with a free throw from Justin Moore, put the Argylls up 26-23 with less than a minute to play.
However, after the Argylls played excellent defense throughout the second quarter, holding the Bruins to just five points in the first six minutes, Blackford star Luke Brown made his presence felt. A three-pointer from the Bruins’ point guard tied the game at 26-26, and a steal and score at the buzzer gave Blackford a 28-26 lead at the halftime break.
A Kaden Howell three early in the second half put the Argylls up 29-28, but after that, Madison-Grant’s offense went cold. The Argylls hit just three of their 12 field goal attempts in the frame, and the Bruins finished the quarter on a 7-0 run over the final two minutes, taking a 43-37 lead.
“Every possession matters. Our only goal is to win one possession at a time,” M-G Head Coach Kevin Cherry said. “Those points you leave on the floor in those possessions, those can be big later on in the game. That third quarter stretch where we missed some shots and they made some shots…we were really in a bind at that point.”
The Argylls played great defense on Brown throughout the game, holding him to just 22 points in the contest, but their third quarter struggles proved costly, as they never got any closer than five points to the Bruins the rest of the way.
“I thought if we would hold him to 22, I would tell you that we would have a great chance to win,” Cherry said. “If we had made some shots like we made the first time we played them, then I think we are right there in a great position to win that basketball game. But we got down multiple possessions, and it was going to be really tough for us to turn them over. We just couldn’t get enough extra possessions back.”
In their final high school game, Grant Brown led the way with 18 points, nine rebounds, and four assists, while Kaden Howell finished with 16 points.
While the Argylls’ season ended sooner than many imagined, Cherry was pleased with his team’s performance throughout the campaign, particularly from his seniors, including Brown, Howell, Moore, and Jackson Manwell.
“Our seniors have just been tremendous all year long,” Cherry said. “The legacy they are going to leave, and the culture they have now established at Madison-Grant, they can be extremely proud of. They are going to end up having the lowest defensive average of any team to play at Madison-Grant. They are the first team with an outright CIC championship in school history. Those guys have worked their rear-ends off to get to where they are at right now.
“This hurts tonight, and it should hurt as a competitor. But one thing we can live with is that we left it all out on the floor.”