That was the last time that the Marion Lady Giants had won a regional championship.
That is, until Saturday night.
In a thrilling 36-minute basketball game, the Giants, who were down six with less than a minute to go, forced overtime, and some incredible play in the waning seconds completed the comeback, lifting Marion to a 55-52 overtime win over the Angola Hornets.
The Giants controlled the first half, as their aggressive zone defense did an excellent job of stifling the Hornets’ attack. Marion led 16-7 after the first quarter of play and took a 20-14 lead into the halftime break.
But Angola, looking for their first regional championship in school history, were not about to go down without a fight.
The Hornets came charging back in the third quarter, cutting Marion’s lead to 27-26 with 1:09 to play in the frame, but Marion stabilized briefly, taking a 32-29 advantage into the final quarter of regulation.
Angola began to assert control in the fourth frame, and with 37 seconds to go, they held a 46-40 lead over the Giants.
But Marion, who has done a fantastic job of keeping their composure throughout the tournament, did so yet again against the Hornets.
Jazmyn Turner buried a huge corner three to make it a one possession game, and after Angola missed free throws on the other end, Ellie Vermilion was fouled on a three-point shot with seven seconds to go. The junior shooting guard calmly knocked down all three free throws to send the contest to overtime.
Holding a slim one-point lead, Turner was fouled with 7.3 seconds left in the extra session. She missed both free throws, but she got her own rebound and put it back up and in, sealing a dramatic victory that puts Marion one win away from a trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“It means more than words can call you,” Marion Head Lawrence Jordan said. “We put the plan together, they executed the plan, they bought in totally, and what we are seeing are the fruits of our hard labor. We played two tough games today, and we fought through and it was a credit to our mental toughness and our physical toughness. We kept fighting, and [now,] we are regional champions for the first time in the last 33 years. It feels really good to be a part of that.”
The Giants will face their toughest test of the season next weekend at the semi-state, where they will face off against the defending state champion, and No. 1 ranked, Northwestern Tigers. Armed with shooting guard Madison Layden and center Kendall Bostic, both Big 10 commits, the Tigers are a formidable foe who have dominated their competition over the past two seasons.
But Jordan and the Giants do not care about that. Rather, they are focused on playing their best basketball.
And win or lose, they are going to battle until the very end.
“I’ve got talent, and I’ll take my girls any day – I’m not backing down,” Jordan said. “I respect Northwestern and what Kathie Layden has done. Her daughter, [Madison,] is a really good player, she may be Miss Basketball next year. Bostic is going to Michigan State. But I’ll take Jazmyn Turner, I’ll take RaShaya Kyle, I’ll take my five against anybody.
“We’re playing with house money now. We weren’t supposed to win the sectionals, and we did. We won the regionals. [Against Northwestern,] we are going to be fighting and ready to play. We’re not backing down.”