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Giants rally past Delta for regional title

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GIANTS: Marion’s Jalen Blackmon drives into the lane in the second half of the Giants’ 45-39 win over previously unbeaten and Class 3A No. 1 Delta Saturday night in the Marion Regional championship in Bill Green Arena.
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SCRAP: Marion’s JK Thomas battles with a Delta guard for loose ball in the first half of the Giants’ 45-39 regional championship win Saturday night.



Many classic battles have been waged in Bill Green Arena through the years, and the 2019 Marion Regional championship is the most recent edition to the list.

Class 3A's 14th-ranked Marion got off to a flying start, leading 16-4 lead after eight minutes, only to see top-ranked Delta quickly come storming back with the first 10 points of the second quarter.

What ensued was a defensive battle and a game of back-and-forth then decisive run authored by the Giants over the final two minutes. What resulted was Marion scoring the final 11 points and shocking the previously unbeaten Eagles, 45-39 to advance into the 3A final four.

Marion (18-7) will face defending 3A champion Culver Academy (23-3) in the Northern Semistate at Elkhart Central High School (North Gym) Saturday at 6 p.m.. Culver topped Hammond, 62-41 to win the South Bend Semistate.

Delta's Josh Bryan scored the first basket of the game less than a minute in but it would be the Eagles only field goal of the first quarter. The Giants scored the next 13 points, the last nine on consecutive Jalen Blackmon threes. Bryan knocked down a pair of free throws with just under a minute before freshman RaSheed Jones drained a three putting the Giants up 12.

Marion answered Delta's 10-point burst in the second quarter with six of their own to go up 22-14 then led 22-18 at halftime. 

Delta forged a tie at 25, took its first lead at 28-25 before Blackmon and Jones bookended a pair of Josh Balfour free throws with three pointers the pushed Marion back up 33-28 with just over two minutes remaining in the third.

Bryan hit a three and a pair of free throws before sophomore Brady Hunt banked in a putback at the buzzer giving Delta a 35-33 lead and huge momentum boost.

Neither team managed points for nearly four of the last eight minutes, and Bryan broke the ice with his final two of a 20-point effort. 

Blackmon hit one-of-two free throws before Hunt scored with 2:36 to play to give Delta its biggest lead at 39-34. 

A timeout ensued and Marion coach James Blackmon had a simple message for the Giants.

“The game’s not over. We still had to believe and we still had to play,” he said. “We made a couple of stops defensively. They’re a great team and the clock was on their side and they’re not going to turn the ball over. I told them we’ve got force turnovers and be disciplined.


“We just continued to play and I thought our guys believed and kept playing and we put ourselves in a position to win,” he added.

Sloppy passing and a stout Delta defense forced the Giants into 17 turnovers in the game. Marion's defense also helped create 17 turnovers out of Delta, eight in the fourth quarter, including five in the last 2:36.

The first led to a pair of Blackmon free throws with two minutes left, but Thomas missed a pair six-seconds later after making a steal.

Delta ran nearly a minute off the clock before Blackmon picked Josh Greenberg's pocket near midcourt and made a contested layup to pull Marion within one.

Bryan worked in close but was forced into a heavily contested shot by D'Angelo Jones and Dre Aguilar that deflected off the backboard and into Blackmon's hands. He delivered the ball to a streaking Thomas for an uncontested layup and a 40-39 lead for the Giants with 43 seconds to play.

Zach Garner had a chance to put Delta back on top eight seconds later but missed the front end of his one-and-one.

RaSheed Jones grabbed the rebound then put the Giants' up three with a pair of free throws after being fouled.

Aguilar made a steal on Delta's next possession and one-of-two from the line. Bryan missed a three and Thomas missed two free throws. Hunt rebounded but was forced into a travel when D'Angelo Jones slashed into path of the outlet pass. He then ran down a long inbounds pass in the backcourt, drew a foul and iced the game with pair of free thows with 7.4 seconds to play.  

"My teammates, man, I can't believe the effort they brought and the defense we brought," said Jalen Blackmon, who led the Giants with 20 points. "To beat an undefeated team, it just shows what type of team we are and what we're capable of doing."

Five of Blackmon's six field goals were threes and RaSheed Jones hit a pair of threes and scored 10 points. D’Angelo Jones hit Marion's only other three and ended with five points, two rebounds and a few important plays that don't show up in statistics.

Thomas sat most of the second half after enduring an ankle injury late in the second quarter and finished with four points.

Aguilar scored three points and pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. He also came up with three steals, two blocked shots and an assist.

Bryan led Delta with 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting. Greenberg chipped in with 10 points and Hunt scored six and had 11 boards.  

The 3A Southern Semistate in Seymour features No.13 Indianapolis Attucks (20-8) meeting No. 6 Silver Creek (23-3) at 3 p.m. Attucks topped Beech Grove, 68-63 in the Greencastle Regional. Silver Creek beat Princeton, 67-58 at Southridge.

The 3A state championship will be March 23 at 6 p.m. in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. 

The Class A Northern Semistate will also be decided at Elkhart Central with Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (26-2) facing Lafayette Central Catholic (24-4) at 4 p.m.

At Lafayette Jeff in the North, Frankton (25-3) meets Andrean (19-8) at 1 p.m. in 2A and Carmel (24-1) battles Penn (24-3) at 3:30 p.m. in 4A.

The 2A Southern Semistate at Seymour has Linton-Stockton (26-3) against Shenandoah (26-1)  at 1 p.m. ahead of the 3A game.

At Washington in Class A, Barr-Reeve (25-2) faces Bloomfield (20-7) at 4 p.m. and in 4A it's Center Grove (21-8) and Ben Davis (19-7) at 6 p.m.