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Blackmon, Thomas combine for 50 points in win

BY Spencer Durham - sdurham@chronicle-tribune.com

Jalen Blackmon and JK Thomas nearly outscored Greenwood by themselves as the Marion Giants boys’ basketball team overcame a couple sluggish lulls Saturday afternoon to win their sixth straight game, 76-52, in Bill Green Arena.

Coming off a 26-point performance Friday night that helped propel the Giants to a win at McCutcheon, Thomas followed up with 25 points against Greenwood. Blackmon also had 25 points.

The duo turned it on in the fourth quarter combining for 20 points that allowed the Giants to finally pull away from a Greenwood team that was down by as much 14 in the first half and as little as four in the second. 

Thomas knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 57-43 in the fourth after Blackmon connected on three foul shots. Marion would extend their lead to 67-46 down the stretch with Thomas contributing eight of 10 points, including two separate old fashioned three-point plays, one of which featured a twisting, acrobatic layup that elicited a smile from the junior when he went to the line.

“It makes my job easier,” said coach James Blackmon, on having Thomas back in the lineup. “He puts the pressure on team defenses. He creates for his teammates, he can break the defense down. Once he’s playing at full strength, that brings another dimension to our team.”

All of that was on display Saturday, too. Thomas found teammates in transition and created havoc on defense.

“It makes teams understand that they can’t throw gimmicks because we have guys that make shots,” Blackmon said, referencing Thomas’ presence and a box-and-one defense that held Jalen Blackmon in check Friday night.

Marion appeared sluggish to start Saturday’s afternoon game, falling behind 9-2. Coming out of a timeout with 3:54 left in the first quarter, the Giants turned it on and closed out the quarter on a 16-3 run with buckets from Thomas, Blackmon, Dre Aguilar and RaSheed Jones.

Greenwood held tough, despite the burst. The second quarter was nearly even with Marion scoring 22 and the Woodmen scoring 21. The Giants would have had a 10-point lead going into the half but a half-court banked-in ‘3’ at the buzzer by Greenwood kept the lead at seven (40-33).

Jones would contribute eight of his 12 points in the second quarter including a couple 3-pointers. Blackmon had 10 in the quarter as well.

The third quarter was a low scoring affair and allowed Greenwood to trim the lead to four, 42-38, but Marion would respond again and close out the third on an 8-1 run.

Aguilar had five points, all in the first quarter. Qu’Ron Howard had six points off the bench, all in the second half.

With the win, Marion has won 11 of its last 12 games.

Saturday’s game had no bearing on tournament seeding or conference rankings. Coach Blackmon said he let his players play through stretches, such as those in the first and third quarters.

“It’s a game where we took an opportunity to improve,” he said. “When you look at Greenwood and you look at some of the teams we have to play in the tournament, they’re similar.

“... I would like to play more consistent than we did today,” he added. “We can’t play down to certain teams’ level and I thought at times we did today.”

The Giants have a big week ahead with games against Fort Wayne Blackhawk, Harrison and Indianapolis Manual.

Friday night’s tilt at Harrison will be for the North Central Conference title. Marion currently is tied with Lafayette Jeff and hasn’t won a conference title since the 2008-09 season.

With three games on the slate, Blackmon said this week will be about keeping players fresh, getting in the film room and fine tuning some fundamentals.

“What we have to do when we’re not playing, we have to get the guys watching films,” he said. “… the basic fundamental stuff, getting shots up but at the same time doing a lot of more reviewing …”