Updated Fri, Feb 21, 2014 5:45 pm
Marietta Pioneers head coach Jon VanderWal must have shook his head in disappoint after the Pioneers latest game.
Despite leading the Mount Union Purple Raiders at halftime, 43-40, the Pioneers dropped a close 81-77 game against the Ohio Athletic Conference leaders that would have put the Pioneers at the top of the conference standings.
Instead, Marietta (18-6, 13-4) remains in second place headed into its final regular season game against John Carroll (15-9, 9-8) at Ban Johnson Arena at 3 p.m.
The previous matchup between these teams saw the Pioneers escape with a 78-70 win in University Heights, Ohio, and was the starting point to Marietta’s six-game winning streak that just ended Wednesday.
Now the Pioneers have to quickly reproduce some of that same winning-streak magic as they head into this game and into the OAC Tournament, which starts on Feb. 25.
To do that Marietta will rely on the talents of standout sophomore guard RaNeal Ewing and the tenacity of the Pioneers’ defense.
In recent games Marietta has started strong but ultimately struggled down the stretch. This trend has amounted to many games that come down to the final minutes before the Pioneers typically to pull away.
This tactic did not work against Mount Union and might not work against other harder working teams like John Carroll. With the post-season in mind the Pioneers will really have to put their foot to the pedal in the coming days.
More than just one game is on the line in Marietta’s matchup with John Carroll. A Pioneers loss could allow Wilmington College, who currently sits third in the OAC with a 12-5 conference record, to leapfrog the Pioneers in the standings.