Payback is sweet and the Beckman boys’ basketball team loved the taste, Feb. 4, in Marion when the Blazers turned the tables on the newly-ranked, Class 3A No. 1 Indians, 50-47.
The win made the Blazers’ loss, Jan. 14, at home on a last-second trey just a bit more palatable.
The Blazers took charge early in this one, with Michael Keegan dumping a three and Jack Gehling putting in a basket and one free throw before Keegan repeated from long range, for a 9-2 lead. Marion freshman Brayson Laube answered from afar to cut it to 9-5 and the race was on, baskets made, then answered by both teams before the quarter ended with the Blazers up 18-16, helped by back-to-back threes from Tom Jaeger in the final minutes.
In the second quarter, it was more of the same with the Blazers scoring 11 and the Indians 10 to make it 29-26 at the break. The third opened with an Indian tally but Mason White made it 31-28 with one from under the basket. Luke Goedken drilled a three and Jaeger swished a sweet jumper in the lane before swishing another three for their largest lead of the night, 39-32, with 18 seconds to go. A Gage Franck three at the buzzer made it 39-35 entering the final eight minutes.
Gehling got two back but two quick Marion-hero-of-game-one-Jaffer Murphy scores made it 41-39. Keegan dropped the front of a bonus, 42-39, but another set of scores, from Will Henricksen and Connor Whalen, gave the Indians a short-lived 43-42 lead. White drove the baseline to score and put the Blazers up for the remainder of the game, 44-43. Just seconds after he scored, Jaeger hit a jumper from eight feet to push it to 46-43.
Henricksen converted a steal to cut it to one, 46-45, but Keegan swished both sides of a bonus to make it three again, 48-45, with 1.5 minutes to go. The Indians turned the ball over with less than a minute to go and the Blazers used their time wisely, running the clock down to about 12 seconds. Only trouble was, the Indians drew a foul and Franck made both sides. Despite tremendous pressure on the inbounds under the Marion basket, Keegan collected the ball, threw to Jaeger who passed to a wide-open Goedken under the Blazer basket for the game-sealing lay-in. With 3.1 seconds left, the Indians forced the inbound throw and, much like the end of game one, bobbled the ball, put it on the floor, where, this time, Keegan fell on it to preserve the win.
Coach Michael Molony added, “Going on the road to the newly-ranked 3A No. 1 team, we knew we were in for another significant conference challenge. We felt we let the previous match-up get away from us. This time we answered the call, especially early. We understood their defense was going to allow us to work the ball around for a good shot and often those are outside the arc. This allowed us to virtually maintain the lead to the fourth quarter.
“While we did sacrifice our lead in the fourth, our confidence never wavered and Mason’s and-one play got the lead back. By his standards, he would have liked to have shot better in the game but when we needed the play and he had the mismatch, he made the biggest play of t he night.
“On the defensive end, it was a total team effort to slow Marion down, one of the top-scoring teams in the conference. They came in making over eight threes a game and we held them to just two.
“With this being a boy-girl doubleheader, the gym was full and loud and we responded. We schedule these games way out in the summer/fall hoping for a great high school atmosphere. It felt like a playoff game with seemingly all the weight of the gym hanging on each play. We had not been able to get on top in the other close games like this all season. This is a great performance we will be able to reference in the future.”
Beckman’s leaders were: scoring — Keegan 16 (two treys), Jaeger 15 (three-of-three), Gehling seven, Goedken seven (one), White five; rebounds — Gehling eight, Keegan five, Jaeger four, White three, Goedken two, Jake Hermsen and Jack Westhoff one; blocks — Keegan two; steals — Keegan and White two, Jaeger, Hermsen and Logan Goedken one; assists — Luke Goedken seven, White three, Keegan two, Jaeger and Gehling one.
Mount Vernon got its own taste of payback, Feb. 7, at Beckman when the Mustangs jumped on the Blazers from the start and ran the game to a 58-40 win. The decision, when paired with DeWitt’s win over Marion the same night, handed the Mustangs sole possession of first place in the WaMaC, at 16-2. The Blazers had handed them one of their only two losses this year, back on Jan. 13 at Mount Vernon, 71-59.
The Mustangs opened the game like a team on a mission, running to a 12-2 first-quarter advantage and ending it up 19-9. (For the game they hit 20-of-36 from the field, 5-of-8 from three.) The second was more of the same, with the Blazers icy from the field when they could get free to shoot. Were it not for White’s eight points in the last two minutes the margin would have been worse than 32-17 at halftime.
The Blazers came out of the break hot, scoring the first seven points, a bunny from Luke Goedken, a three and free throws from White, while holding the Mustangs scoreless in that opening five minutes and cut the margin to eight, 32-24. But it was as close as they would get. The Mustangs controlled the final three minutes, scoring 13 to White’s inbounds bunny for a 43-26 margin to start the fourth.
Keegan re-entered after sitting the third due to fouls and he and White traded threes to make it 48-32. Mount Vernon answered with six straight before Keegan got a lay-in to go down. It was back to 20 points, 58-38, when the benches were cleared and Jake Hermsen tallied the final Blazer points.
“From the tip, we struggled to find our way on both ends of the court,” said Molony. “Credit Mount Vernon who made some adjustments, like good teams do, from our first match-up, and we were too late to adjust ourselves. They set the tone that never really let us get into a rhythm.
“In our previous match-up, we were also down double digits before a furious comeback before the half. We seemed to be waiting for that shoe to drop again but it never really came after some foul trouble ensued.
“We did make a run to cut that 15-point halftime mark to eight but couldn’t get the stops we needed to close that third quarter. We looked at the statistics and realized we only got 16 stops, well below our goal, 11 rebounds and had 13 turnovers (to their eight). We know that if we reach our stops goal and win the rebounding and/or turnover battle, we are extremely hard to beat. We have been able to cut any deficit we faced all year and this was the first time we couldn’t overcome it.
“This was a good lesson and, to be honest, being 19 games into a season with no real dud games is impressive. We also need to realize we are fortunate it happened before the playoffs.”
Keegan and White shared high point honors with 16, both drilling three treys. Luke Goedken, Jaeger, Gehling and Hermsen contributed a basket. Other stats were: rebounds — Keegan four, White and Luke Goedken two, Gehling, Sean Kluesner and Bryce Boekholder one; steals — Luke Goedken and Keegan one; assists — Luke Goedken four, Westhoff three, Keegan and Gehling one.