Marshall High coach Nick Dent said he didn’t have to motivate his team. The location for Thursday’s tilt against rival Olivet took care of that for him.
The Redhawks engineered a 42-37 non-conference win over the Eagles at the Breslin Center on the campus at Michigan State University in the Holiday Hoops Invitational presented by East Lansing High School.
“The kids were so excited to be at practices around Christmas. It’s always a big game with Olivet, but being here just added another layer of excitement,” Dent said.
It may have looked like Olivet might ride off victorious, as the Eagles staked out a 22-16 halftime lead. But a furious third-quarter effort on Marshall’s part played huge in the outcome.
“At halftime, we talked about what shots were going to be available, and we realized we were going to have to hit some mid-range jump shots to be successful,” said Dent.
The Redhawks’ Matt Murphy and the Eagles’ Quintan Harris traded baskets late in the third, keeping Olivet’s lead at six, 26-20. But a 3-point basket by Robbie Ranville, a basket by Tony Wimberly and another basket by Murphy put Marshall ahead, 27-26.
Nick Coolidge put the Eagles back on top, 28-27, but a flurry again from the Redhawks, keyed by a buzzer-beating 3-point basket by Ranville, surged Marshall ahead at 33-28.
“We were a little frustrated in the first half, not being able to go to the rim like we do,” said Dent. “We knew that was going to be tough today because of Harris, but we were able to adjust.”
Olivet wasn’t going quietly, and even had the contest tied at 37-37 with 2:35 remaining. But Wimberly made sure that the Redhawks would go home winners.
Wimberly sank a free throw, hit a basket with 1:18 remaining and iced it with two from the charity stripe with 12.4 seconds remaining to close the scoring at 42-37.
“We were able to come up with big shots when we needed them down the stretch,” Dent said. “We’ve played with composure for the entire season. They’re handling those moments of adversity the right way.”
Despite the setback, Olivet coach Brian Dartt, who coached the Eagles to a Class C state title in 2005, thought his team did a number of things well.
“We moved the ball, we shifted defenses and worked to get it inside,” Dartt said. “Quintan’s been sick, he’s still moving well and hopefully he’s on the mend a little bit.
“Just getting invited here provides a lot of energy for your program,” Dartt added. “It gives you some validity and you get a reward early in the season just by being invited.”
Wimberly led all scorers with 15 points and added three rebounds and three assists. Ranville and Murphy added eight points each.
Harris scored 14 points despite his illness, Trent Strang scored 10 and Coolidge added eight.
Wimberly and Harris were named to the all-tournament team (although Thursday’s event was not an elimination-style affair.).