No matter how the regular season pans out, the Marion Giants just take it to another gear when it comes to the playoffs.
And on Saturday night at Lafayette Jefferson High School, the Giants won yet another sectional title.
Behind a remarkable 13-point comeback, a tremendous second half performance from JK Thomas, and another big shot from Francesco Boniciolli, Marion punched their ticket to the regional, defeating Harrison by a score of 63-62.
“We have had a lot of adversity this year with Jalen going down and a few other things. We had to put the team back together,” Marion Assistant Coach Herb McPherson said. “Coach Blackmon did a great job of doing that. We were well prepared for the sectional, and our gameplan worked out perfectly.”
After a tightly contested first quarter, the Raiders looked to pull away, using a 9-2 run to take a 20-10 lead early in the second. Harrison kept the Giants off the scoreboard for nearly six minutes before a Rasheed Jones three ended the drought, and Marion headed into halftime trailing 31-19.
Marion was able to cut the Harrison down to five late in the third, but the Raiders used an 8-0 surge to take a 47-34 lead into the final quarter.
But in the fourth, the Giants exploded.
Behind 18 fourth quarter points from JK Thomas, Marion came roaring back, eventually cutting the Harrison lead down to four points with 2:16 to play. Later, a Boniciolli three and another basket from Thomas made it 62-60 with 51.2 seconds to play.
And 40 seconds later, Boniciolli hit the game-winning three from the corner, putting the Giants ahead for good.
“On the last possession, we ran a set play where Francesco was in the corner, and if he was open, he was going to take the shot,” McPherson said. “He was open, he stepped up, and took the shot and hit it.”
Thomas, who scored just three points in the first half, scored 35 points total – 32 of which came after halftime.
“In the first half, he was forcing a couple of shots. In the second half, he hit a couple of shots, and [Harrison’s coach] put their big 6-7 center on him,” McPherson said. “We tried to isolate him, and [JK] took him one-on-one several times and scored on him. He did a really good one-on-one against that kid.”
Marion has now won 70 sectional championships, third most all-time in Indiana. Only Kokomo (74) and Vincennes Lincoln (71) have won more.
“These kids just continued to battle for 32 minutes,” McPherson said. “We just never gave up. We gave 100 percent effort the whole game.”
Marion will begin regional play at 10 am this coming Saturday at Logansport, where they will take on Fort Wayne Snider.