Updated Mon, Feb 3, 2014 10:02 am
Lil Bow Wow’s “Basketball” echoed off the hardwood of Ban Johnson Arena as the Marietta College men’s basketball team assembled themselves in the huddle, awaiting instructions from coach VanderWal. After the timeout the Pioneers’ sophomore guard RaNeal Ewing hit two clutch free-throws that cemented Marietta’s 76-71 win over the Ohio Northern Polar Bears on Saturday.
Ewing missed a transition dunk with 11:15 left in the game and the moment seemed to personify the way the Pioneers had been playing all game; building up some momentum before eventually falling flat.
Marietta (15-4, 10-2 in OAC) looked shaky going into halftime, as it went into the break with a 38-36 lead. Marietta also suffered eight turnovers and a field goal percentage of 31 percent. The Pioneers especially struggled from beyond the arc, shooting 3-14.
The Polar Bears (10-9, 6-6 in OAC) looked to capitalize on Marietta’s mistakes, going on a 9-0 run to begin the second half to grab a 45-38 lead with 16:03 left in the game.
The Pioneers refused to give in, as they hit a number of momentum-changing shots that put the fans in Ban John Arena to their feet.
First, junior post player A.J Davis pulled up from 3-point range and nailed it with 8:35 left to bring Ohio Northern’s lead down to 57-54.
Then, junior post player Garrett Stephenson received the ball on the baseline, took two steps and threw down a one-handed slam with 7:50 left that sent screams and chants around the court. It also brought Marietta within one.
Stephenson would end up with 16 points alongside two rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal.
Finally, Ewing, who had struggled late in the game, scanned the court before pulling up and strapping a 3-pointer to give the Pioneers their first lead since halftime with 3:50 left and a lead 65-63.
Ewing led Marietta offensively, despite being out of position while filling in for injured point guard Andy Dollman. The sophomore guard recorded 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in a team-high 32 minutes of action.
The Polar Bears weren’t ready to pack it in just yet, regaining a 69-65 lead off two good free-throws from Lucas Pennington. Then it was freshman point guard Keith Richardson’s turn to be clutch for the home team as he banged a clutch 3-pointer to bring Marietta back within one.
Then things fell apart for Ohio Northern, as they had a few uninspiring offensive drives that let the Pioneers regain the lead, this time for good.
The final decisive moment in the game came when Ohio Northern’s leading scorer and team leader Branden Rushton stepped out of bounds with 13.2 seconds left in the game. The ruined Polar Bear offensive sequence could have seen it pull back a couple points.
Ewing would go on to hit his next two free-throws and seal the game in favor of the Pioneers.
Marietta also saw major contributions from their bench as they scored 22 points and grabbed 20 of the team’s total 40 rebounds.
Ohio Northern’s senior forward Dominique Royal led the Polar Bears with 13 points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes.
This marks Marietta’s fifth straight win and prepares it well to take on the floundering Muskingum University Fighting Muskies. The Fighting Muskies are currently 7-12, 2-10 in Ohio Athletic Conference play and the Pioneers narrowly escaped with a 79-70 win when it faced them last on Dec. 18.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday Feb. 5.