Before Marion took the floor on Tuesday night against the Fort Wayne Bishop Luers Knights, it was announced that Giants’ star point guard Jalen Blackmon, after sustaining an injury against Cathedral in the Marion Classic, would not play.
And while Marion’s new-look lineup performed well in many areas, they also made several mistakes – and those would prove costly.
Despite career nights from sophomore Rasheed Jones and junior transfer Jermaine Woods, the Giants dropped their second straight contest at the Bill Green Athletic Arena, falling by a score of 70-62.
With Jalen Blackmon absent, the Giants’ offense was out of sync for most of the evening. For the game, Marion turned the ball over 21 times, many of which were unforced, leading to easy offense for the Knights.
“I felt like with that many turnovers, you pretty much take yourself out of the ballgame,” Marion Head Coach James Blackmon said. We definitely have to do a better job as far as taking care of the basketball.”
Woods started off hot for the Giants, scoring the first four points, before Francesco Boniciolli knocked down his first field goal to give Marion a 6-0 lead. Rasheed Jones followed with his first basket, and a converted three-point play from Woods put the Giants up 11-3.
After this, however, Jalen Causey and Naylon Thompson helped to turn the first quarter in Luers’ favor. The duo combined for 15 points in the frame and jumpstarted a 17-4 run to turn the Knights’ eight-point deficit into a 20-15 advantage.
The Knights shot lights out in the opening stanza, knocking down eight of their 15 attempts, including a four-of-six mark from beyond the arc.
Woods and Jones went right back to work in the second quarter. After Woods hit a free throw, Jones scored eight straight points to give Marion a 24-22 lead. Landon Moore tied it up on Luers’ next possession, but back-to-back buckets put Marion up by four.
But the Giants could not build on their lead, as their turnovers continued to pile up. After turning the ball over six times in the first quarter, Marion coughed the ball up eight more times in the second, helping the Knights to regain the momentum.
“Guys had to step into different roles tonight,” Blackmon said. “It was kind of stagnant at times, and you could see that when we turned the ball over.”
The Knights tied the game up at 28-28 and again at 30-30, before back-to-back buckets from More put Luers up by four. Demarcus Hudson’s fourth field goal of the game put the Knights up 36-31, but a successful and-one from JK Thomas brought the Giants to within two points. Lukas North ended the half with a free throw, giving the Knights a 37-34 halftime advantage.
The Giants tried to push back in the third quarter, but Luers always seemed to have an answer. Thomas tied the game at 39-39, but Causey followed with a three. Later, Woods’ first and only field goal of the second half cut the Luers’ lead to 43-41, but a successful three-point play by Hudson and a basket from Thompson pushed the Knights’ advantage to seven, their biggest lead of the night at that point.
Over the last 2:23, the Giants made another surge, outscoring the Knights 8-2, which included a three from Jones at the buzzer. Heading into the final frame, Marion trailed 50-49.
The Giants had the ball to start the fourth, but committed a five-second violation to turn the ball over once again. Luers scored on their opening possession of the frame – and led the rest of the way.
The Knights shot 8-for-12 in the stanza, leading by as many as nine points before settling for an eight-point triumph. Marion cut Luers’ advantage down to three on two separate occasions, but could not get any closer.
Jones played one of his best games in a Marion uniform, scoring 31 points on 11-of-21 shooting. He knocked down five threes in the contest and was the Giants’ most consistent offensive weapon.
Woods was active on both ends of the floor, scoring 16 points, 13 of which came in the first half, collecting 11 rebounds, and blocking six shots.
“We need him to continue to play with that confidence,” Blackmon said. “I thought he had a low post presence. He did a great job of contesting shots. Those are the things we expect him to get better at.”
Thomas scored 11 points, while Boniciolli added four.
For Luers, Causey led the Knights with 20 points, while Thompson scored 19 and Hudson finished with 18.
With their star player sidelined, Marion has entered uncharted territory. But going forward, Blackmon and the Giants will continue to battle and grow with one another.
“When you take a guy out of the lineup who is playing a lot of minutes, that’s minutes for someone to step in and show that he can earn more minutes,” Blackmon said. “Tonight, we tried to search for that. We tried to search for that energy. It’s going to be good to have a few days of practice before we play our next game [and] get more continuity.
“We just have to get the other pieces together. Guys cannot make any excuses, because we are going to get everybody’s best. We just have to come out and continue to compete and play with that pride.”