BY TRAVIS DAVID
PHILADELPHIA — Mark Twain doubled up Marion County on the boards (42-20) in Friday night’s non-conference girls’ contest inside “The Stable”. But the Mustangs proved quantity is not always as important as quality.
A rebound basket by Olivia Wood in the final minute completed Marion County’s 14-point fourth-quarter comeback as the Mustangs stunned Mark Twain, 60-54.
It was Wood’s only made field goal of the game and just her third rebound, but both were also the biggest of the game.
“Those were some really big plays for herself and for the team,” Marion County coach Reed Plunkett said of Wood. “I was pretty hard on her and she was down on herself because she knew she was not playing up to her own standards. But she deserves all the credit for staying with it and made some plays to help seal the deal for us. I am happy for her.”
— Travis David (@TDavid_21) January 30, 2021
After heading into the half tied at 18, Mark Twain (7-9) started to pull away from the Mustangs in the third. Emma Ross and Autumn Arndt both scored six points in the third while Audrey Ross added five points as the Lady Tigers carried a 43-32 lead into the final eight minutes of play.
Prior to the third, neither team held more than a 3-point lead.
“I thought we really did a good job of running and executing our offense there in the third quarter,” Tigers’ coach Matt Boswell said. “We were able to get some easy baskets from it and had a lot of different girls step up.”
Emma Ross opened the fourth with a steal and converted for a 13-point advantage. Three minutes later, Aubrey Ross had a rebound bucket to give the visitors a 51-37 lead with 4:48 left in the game — the largest lead of the contest.
Then the Mustangs found their rhythm.
Halle Keilholz knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers from opposite wings before Madison Stewart capped the Mustangs quick 9-0 spurt with an old-fashioned 3-point play.
Stewart’s play pulled Marion County to within 51-46 with 3:23 left on the clock and brought the Mustangs’ faithful to their feet.
“I may be a little partial, but I don’t think there is any place better to play than here at The Stable,” Plunkett said of his home crowd. “It’s a COVID season so the stands are not even full, but they still made it loud in here tonight.”
After Delany Straus pulled the Mustangs to within 52-48, Anna Etchernatch pulled down one of her nine rebounds in the game off the offensive glass and stuck it back for a 54-48 lead with just under three minutes left in the game.
Stewart answered by burying a three from the corner before Straus and Wood teamed up for a steal on the Tigers’ next possession. Keilholz then drained her sixth triple of the game and third of the fourth quarter to draw Marion County even with 1:44 remaining.
“I honestly did not think about anything on the shot,” Keilholz said. “I just saw that I was open so I might as well and it went in.”
After Wood’s go-ahead bucket, Keilholz and Wood both made a pair of free throws to ice the game.
After missing five of her first six shots of the game, Keilholz finished with a game-high 21 points in the win.
Although the shots were not falling early, Keilholz knew she needed to keep shooting the ball.
“I remember coach telling me before that if I am open that I better shoot the ball or he would sit my butt on the bench,” she said with a chuckle.
For the game, Marion County (9-6) made nine 3-pointers including seven in the second half. In the fourth, the Mustangs made 8 of 11 shots from the field.
“Sometimes you lose a game because of what you did or didn’t do and sometimes the other team just wins the game because of what they did,” Boswell said. “And tonight, you have to give credit to Marion County. We knew coming in they had some shooters but a lot of those shots they hit late in the game were with a hand in their face. They won this game.”
Emma Ross paced the Tigers with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Arndt finished with 13 points and eight boards.
Straus and Riley Donath joined Keilholz in double figures with 15 and 12 points, respectively, while Stewart (6) and Wood (4) combined for 10 points.
Straus also added a team-best eight rebounds as well as three steals and three blocked shots.
“I thought Delaney really kept us in the game early and she really played great on both ends of the court the entire game,” Plunkett said.
In the boy’s game, Mark Twain scored 10 of the first 12 points and never looked back in a 62-42 win.
The Tigers led 17-8 after the first and 25-15 at the break.
After the Mark Twain cushion was extended to 42-23 heading into the final frame, the Mustangs tried to duplicate what the Lady Mustangs did in the first game.
The hosts started the fourth on a 13-1 run to pull to within 43-36 with 4:24 left in the game.
But the Tigers regrouped as Lukas McLeod scored 10 of his game-high 27 points in the final 3:37.
Connor Eckler added 16 points in the win.
Cooper Stotts paced the Mustangs with 11 points while Spencer Whetstone and Root Cheney both chipped in with 10 points.
“It was great that we were able to cut the deficit down to seven like we did but the bigger problem is the first hole we created,” Plunkett said of his team. “When you get down 20 and then spend all that energy to get back in it you are kind of gassed and end up getting beat by 20 when we felt like we should have been right there in it at the end.”
Marion County falls to 1-13 while the Tigers improve to 3-7.
Both Marion County teams play host to Atlanta on Saturday while the Tigers travel to Wright City on Monday.