North Marion boys fall to Shady Spring in state quarterfinal 52-30

Mar. 12—CHARLESTON — The first of three games in the AAA boys basketball state quarterfinals to feature a team from Marion County, No. 7 North Marion took on No. 2 Shady Spring Tuesday afternoon at the Charleston Coliseum.

After a close first half that saw Shady Spring up by only five points, the Tigers ran away from North Marion, advancing to the semifinals 52-30 over the Huskies.

"I thought we played pretty well in the first half," North Marion Head Coach Steven Harbert said. "Second half, we had some unforced turnovers, some travels, just mistakes. Good defensive teams not only wear you down physically but they wear you down mentally."

Ammar Maxwell led Shady Spring's effort, scoring 26 points and grabbing seven rebounds, shooting 10 for 14 on the floor and three for three from the three-point line. Jalon Bailey followed with 11 points, and Gavin Davis had six rebounds.

For North Marion, senior Caden Morris scored a team high 15 points. Three players led the team in rebounds with five each, including Morris, junior Jeffrey Cowger and junior Quinton Harbert.

North Marion shot 13-33 from the floor for a 39.4 shooting percentage. North Marion made six layups the entire game and went three for 12 from beyond the arc.

"They were taking everything away," Harbert said. "They're really good defensively. They help well. They help them recover. That's what a good defensive team does."

Shady Spring averaged over a point per takeaway against North Marion. Shady Spring forced 20 turnovers and scored 22 points off turnovers. North Marion forced nine turnovers and scored two points off of them.

For the seniors, Morris, Dylan Higgins and Landon Frey, and for the injured Casey Minor, it's their last game taking the court for North Marion. Considering the highs and lows of this season, making the state tournament meant a lot to the graduating class.

"We had a lot of adversity this year compared to other years," Higgins said. "I think this year was extra special with what our team went through throughout the season. It felt really good this year. We really all pulled together towards the end. It was just extra special this year for a lot of us."

The game remained tied 2-2 in the first quarter until Shady Spring's Maxwell hit two free throws to break the tie. North Marion fell behind by as many as eight points but finished the quarter on a 4-0 run to make it 12-8 in favor of Shady Spring by the end of the quarter.

The second quarter saw little scoring from either team. They combined for four made shots and 1-2 from the freethrow line. At halftime, the Shady Spring Tigers held a 19-14 lead over the underdog North Marion Huskies.

Shady Spring flexed its muscles in the third quarter, taking its lead to double-digits over North Marion. Shady Spring outscored North Marion 17-7 and took the 36-21 lead into the fourth quarter.

Looking to cruise to the finish, Shady Spring maintained its lead over North Marion and stayed above a double-digit difference for the whole of the fourth quarter. When the final buzzer sounded, Shady Spring beat North Marion 52-30 to advance to the semifinal.

With its season now over, North Marion capped off an up-and-down season with a state tournament appearance. The Huskies won their first section title since 2004 and hosted its first ever region game. Before reaching the tournament, North Marion won five of its last six after losing six in a row and losing a senior to injury for the rest of the season.

"We had so much adversity throughout the season that we had to come together and talk about it and say 'hey, we're gonna get this together,'" Morris said. "We all talked to each other because we're all friends outside of school. And then we got the sectional championship and then the regional, and that was a big goal for us."

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548