Playing in their first game since December 20, there was bound to be some rust for the Marion Lady Giants.
And in the first two quarters of their contest with the Danville Warriors on Saturday evening in the Marion Classic, that was certainly the case. The Giants struggled to put the ball in the basket, and subsequently, had trouble stopping Danville from doing so.
But then again, a strong second half effort, combined with another brilliant performance from Ra’Shaya Kyle, helped the Lady Giants start 2020 on a positive note as they defeated the Warriors by a score of 55-53.
“We had two really, really good weeks of practice,” Marion Head Coach Lawrence Jordan said. “The girls bought in. We just dialed in on some weaknesses we had seen the last three or four games. We had everybody on deck, great effort, and great practices. I’m not surprised by the effort I got from the girls today.”
Though the contest ended with a Marion victory, the Giants got off to a sluggish start. They turned the ball over three times, shot just two-for-seven from the field, and scored only four points as the Warriors built a 12-4 lead.
Danville’s Isabelle Wooten gave the Warriors a game-high 10 point lead on their first shot of the second quarter, and while the Giants started to find their offense, turnovers killed any momentum they had.
Marion cut Danville’s lead to 16-11 on a pair of Kyle free throws, but a turnover on their next possession led to an easy transition basket for Ella Collier. Kyle hit two more free throws, but another turnover led to free throws for Maddie Patterson, who made them both.
Two more times, the Giants cut into Danville’s lead, only to have the Warriors force a turnover and score in transition, as they took a 24-18 lead into halftime.
But despite all the struggles they faced, the Giants were in striking distance throughout the second quarter, some adjustments were made and discussions were had, and Marion returned to the floor with renewed vigor,
“It was a six point game. We had 13 turnovers and five or six missed free throws,” Jordan said. “But the effort was there. I stayed positive with them. I felt like we could pressure their perimeter players. That pressure started to get to them. They turned it over a couple of times. We were able to finish, get the lead, and keep it.”
After scoring just 18 points in the first half, the Giants exploded for 19 points in the third, nine of those coming from Ra’Shaya Kyle. With Danville leading 33-24, Marion ended the quarter on a 13-4 run, tying the game at 37-37 in the process.
Kyle and Ellie Vermilion combined for 12 of the 13 points.
“Everything starts with those two girls,” Jordan said. “They get all the credit. They deserve it. I tip my hat to her and Ra’Shaya. They are the reason we came out on top. Those two spearheaded the effort.”
Vermilion opened the fourth quarter with her second three of the contest, jumpstarting a 12-4 surge and giving Marion a lead they would not relinquish.
Danville made a late push, outscoring the Giants 11-4 to cut the lead to two with 15.4 seconds left, but the Giants survived in the final moments, pulling out the victory.
After shooting just 37.5 percent in the first half, Marion’s offense was much more efficient after halftime, scoring at a 52.2 percent rate. For the game, the Giants shot 18-of-39 (46.2).
Defensively, after a poor first quarter, the Giants rebounded nicely, holding the Warriors to just 21-of-54 (38.9 percent) from the field.
Kyle led the way with 27 points, while Vermilion came away with 16.