Marion boys basketball coach James Blackmon offered a moment of levity moments after the Giants finished off an exciting, 83-77, come-from-behind win over Fort Wayne South Side Saturday night in Bill Green Arena.
Jalen Blackmon, coach’s son, scored 25 points in the second half and 40 for the game to lead the Giants’ charge. Furthermore, the senior guard moved within 117 points of his dad in the pursuit of becoming Marion’s all-time leading scorer.
James Blackmon, who scored 1,897 points as a Giant, was asked if he’d thought about what the night might be like when Jalen eclipses his record that’s stood since 1983.
Coach planted his tongue firmly in his cheek and tried to inject some doubt into the scenario.
“We’re gonna start snatching him out of the game here pretty soon,” Coach Blackmon offered, with a twinkle in his eyes and hint of laughter in his voice. “We’re not gonna worry about that. We’re gonna go ahead and start snatching him and we’ll take control of that.”
While Jalen did the heavy lifting offensively against the Archers, it was the Giants’ collective effort on the defensive end and rebounding that led to the triumph.
Marion took a 17-15 lead through the first eight minutes, but South Side outscored the Giants 25-15 in the second quarter to lead 40-32 at halftime.
South’s big second quarter occurred because of a relentless rebounding effort that resulted in 17 total boards, with nine on the offensive end.
The Archers out-rebounded the Giants, 21-10, through the first 16 minutes.
Energy and adjustments were key for the Giants in flipping the script in the second half. Marion out-rebounded the Archers, 17-8, and forced eight of South’s 15 turnovers over the final 16 minutes.
Still, South Side never relinquished its lead until very late in the third.
The Giants scratched back to tie the game at 48 midway through the quarter, but the Archers scored the next six points and led 60-54 with 1:44 to play in the third.
However, Rodney Gipson’s rebound basket was followed by a Taden Metzger 3-pointer to quickly pull the Giants within one. After a South bucket, Matthew Goolsby scored for the Giants and Blackmon made a steal and layup just before the clock expired to send Marion to the fourth quarter with a slim 63-62 advantage.
“One of the things coming into the ball game was we wanted to control tempo,” Coach Blackmon said. “We want to play a half-court defensive game and it’s hard to pickup and control tempo.
“I thought South Side did a great job early of handling the ball well,” he continued. “The second half we came out and extended our defense a little more. We were more aggressive on the defensive end. We then tried to speed those guys up. I thought we sped them up and led to easy transition buckets, it led to some turnovers. That’s the pace we wanted to play.”
The Giants made 12-of-15 field goal attempts in outscoring South, 31-22, in the third quarter.
Through the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, the lead changed hands four times and the game was tied three more times, the last at 72-each with 5:04 to play.
The Giants forced a pair of turnovers and held the guests scoreless for nearly the next four minutes.
A pair of baskets by Josh Balfour bookended a bucket and free throw by Blackmon during the first two minutes of that time, and the 7-0 run put the Giants up 79-72 and proved to be the game’s decisive stretch.
South closed within 81-77 with 39 seconds left, but Blackmon made two free throws with 9.5 seconds remaining to secure the Giants’ fourth win of the season.
Goolsby had his best all-around game of the season with 15 points and a game-high eight rebounds. His six second-half rebounds helped the Giants close South’s advantage on the boards to 29-27 by game’s end.
“I preach to Matthew, I think that’s something that he can do every single game,” Coach Blackmon said. “With his athletic ability it’s just the will of him wanting to go out and get it done. … Sometimes he realizes he plays more minutes when he rebounds, attacks to the glass. Matthew likes to play, and tonight was one of those nights he wanted to stay on the floor.”
Josh Balfour chipped in 12 points and added two assists, two steals and a blocked shot. Gipson finished with eight points and five boards while Metzger added six points and three rebounds. Jermaine Woods didn’t score but pulled down five rebounds and recorded three blocks. Omari Small had two points.
Jalen Blackmon made 11-of-21 field goal attempts, including 4-of-11 from 3-point range, and 14-of-18 from the free throw line. He also finished with five rebounds, four assists and a steal.
“He was aggressive all night. He’s been that way all year long,” Coach Blackmon said of Jalen. “I thought other guys stepped up and made plays as well. If we continue to trust our teammates, continue to play together and continue to believe in each other, I think we can be a great team.”
Dereck Ruch scored 18 points and Jaylen Lattimore added 17 to lead five Archers in double-figure points.
After making just 9-of-22 from the field in the first half, the Giants made 18-of-26 field goal attempts in their 51-point, second-half outburst.
While Jalen Blackmon continues his pursuit of his dad’s scoring record, James Blackmon moved past legendary Marion coach Jack Colescott into third-place all time with his 123rd Marion win. James Blackmon now has 269 wins in a career that spans 17 years. His first nine seasons were at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers.
“Colescott, when you say his name it speaks for itself,” Coach Blackmon said. “His son (1976 Mr. Basketball David Colescott) established basketball for me as a young player, wanting to be a Marion Giant. To see those guys set the example of how to be a Giant.
“His dad set the tone as one of the great coaches in Indiana,” he added. “When you think about being mentioned in that sentence, it says a lot. It sends a chill through my spine.”
The Giants (4-3) now must ready themselves for a pair of tough games against Indianapolis schools. Arsenal Tech (4-5) visits Friday in an important North Central Conference game, and Class 4A No. 8 Crispus Attucks comes to Marion on Saturday.
“We want to come in next week and fine tune some things defensively,” Coach Blackmon said. “… We know Attucks in going to be a great team. That’s a team we learn from every year, but at the same time it brings out the best in our team.
“Our guys are going to be fired up and we’re looking for the opportunity to compete for 32 minutes,” he added. “I don’t think we’ve completed a game all year where we really played 32 solid minutes. That’s what we’re looking for coming up.”