Success took different forms for the Mississinewa and Marion girls basketball teams Tuesday night in Bill Green Arena.
The Indians started the game with an 11-0 run in the first two minutes and never trailed on the way to a 70-67 win.
However, Ole Miss had to hold on through the waning moments as Olivia Aguilar and the Giants erased nearly all of a 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
The win was just Mississinewa’s third of the season and snapped a five-game slide for the Indians.
Though Marion has yet to win this season, the Giants displayed encouraging signs of growth and gave themselves a chance to win for the first time this year.
For both the Indians and Giants, it was the most prolific scoring game of the season, by a wide margin. Ole Miss entered Tuesday averaging just under 40 points per game while Marion was scoring just over 30.
“We needed this more than anything to keep building,” said Giants coach Jerry Freshwater. “If we’d have started a little bit better I think we‘d have had a chance at the end. The girls played hard. I’m proud of them.
“From the very first game to the 11th game you see the difference. That’s what we want,” Freshwater continued. “That’s all we want for these girls to do.”
Mia Catey scored nine points in the first quarter, including the last six of Mississinewa’s game-opening run, and the Indians pulled away to a 24-12 lead after the first eight minutes.
The Indians expanded the lead to 34-16 midway through the second quarter, but the Giants closed with a 15-6 run and closed within 40-31 by halftime.
Ole Miss applied full-court pressure and forced more than 20 turnovers to build its first-half lead.
“We want to make sure we’re pressuring teams. We feel like that’s our best asset, being able to press and trap,” said Indians’ coach Laura Friday. “We knew they weren’t very comfortable dribbling the ball so we wanted to make sure we put extra pressure on them.
“I think they did a really good [job] with the press,” Friday continued. “We’ve just got to make sure we close out games and we finish all four quarters.”
Aguilar scored six of the first eight points of the second half for Marion, and the Giants closed their deficit to 45-39 with 4:30 to play in the third quarter. But Aguilar picked up her fourth foul late in the period, and the Indians outscored the Giants 16-5 to lead 61-44 entering the fourth.
Kate Ramey’s rebound basket and two free throws by Alayna Webb extended Mississinewa’s advantage to 65-44 with just under seven minutes remaining.
A four-plus minute scoring drought followed for Ole Miss as did 13-straight points for the Giants. Marley Starnes hit 1-of-2 foul shots and followed with a field goal after a Marion turnover to make the Indians’ lead 68-57 with just over two minutes left.
Beal scored a bucket for the Giants followed by three consecutive 2-pointers for Aguilar, and Marion closed the lead to 68-65 with 20 seconds to play.
Catey hit 1-of-2 from the line, then Beal scored again to make it a 2-point margin (69-67) with 4.8 seconds left. Catey’s free throw with 0.1 seconds remaining closed out the game and the Ole Miss win.
“We came out really really strong. I just feel like we got super comfortable in the second half,” Friday said. “We felt like we were in a good spot.
“Kudos to Fresh and the Giants. They fought hard, especially in that fourth quarter to make it really, really close in the end,” she added. ”I’m glad our girls pulled it out. We needed a win going into conference here next week.”
Catey scored a career-high 24 points, pulled down six rebounds and added nine steals to lead the Indians. Webb scored 20 points and had four steals. Karmen Swindall finished with 11 points and seven boards, Kaiyah Jones scored 10 points while Starnes added five steals and five rebounds to her three points.
“Mia and Alayna really wanted to win this game and I’m glad they stepped up,” Friday said. “They stepped up in a big way and we needed every point that they scored.”
Aguilar poured in a career-high 35 points to lead the Giants. She missed her first shot then hit 15 straight, including three from long range. Aguilar also had 12 rebounds and four steals and provided a good lesson in leadership for her young teammates.
“She’s not a vocal leader, not one that’s going to yell and say this or say that, but girls see what she does and follow behind her,” Freshwater said of Aguilar. “She’s a good academic, a good student and good person to be around.
“We have good girls and that’s all you can ask,” he added. “This program is going to turn and these girls are going to be the imprint of that turn for the Lady Giants.”
Freshman Talia Alsup added 14 points for Marion while Beal, also a freshman, scored 13 points, pulled down five boards and had four steals. Sophomore Gabby Aguilar scored five points.
Marion (0-11) hosts Logansport Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Mississinewa (3-11) hosts Alexandria on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.