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Trojans upend Giants for Class 3A Regional 6 title

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Players, coaches, managers, and cheerleaders of the Class 3A No. 1 New Castle High School boys basketball team are all smiles as a huge throng of Trojan fans looks on after New Castle defeated tourney host Marion 77-70 Saturday night in Bill Green Arena to win Regional 6. The Trojans take on Culver Academy this Saturday at Lafayette Jeff for the Class 3A northern semi-state championship.
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New Castle’s Bryce Webb (40) and Nicholas Grieser (24) guard Marion freshman Jalen Blackmon (0) during Saturday night’s boys basketball championship game of Class 3A Regional 6 in Marion High School’s Bill Green Arena. Blackmon scored 25 points for the Giants, but he had to work for everyone of them as the Trojans won 77-70 to improve to 27-2 and moved on to play Culver Academy in this Saturday’s northern semi-state championship game at Lafayette Jefferson High School.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

MARION — It seemed like the 1960s and 1970s again Saturday night in Marion High School’s Bill Green Athletic Arena: every seat taken, some fans standing up, and fans cheering mightily for their respective teams.

In this electric atmosphere, Class 3A No. 1 New Castle took on tourney host Marion, and after 32 minutes of action, the Trojans emerged with a 77-70 victory over the Giants to win the Regional 6 championship and advance to this Saturday’s northern semi-state championship game at Lafayette Jefferson High School against highly-ranked Culver Academy.

New Castle moves on with a 27-2 record while Marion saw its season end with a 20-7 record.

The 27 victories ties a school record held by the 1932 state championship team for the most wins in a season. Also, last Saturday’s two victories gave the Trojans an 11-game winning streak and ties them with the 1997 New Castle team as the only two Trojan squads to have two double-digit winning streaks in the same season.

“Marion is a very good and athletic team,” New Castle Coach Daniel Cox said, “and we knew it would be a battle. But our guys came in and had a great first half and didn’t panic when they came back on us. We did what we’ve done to get 26 wins, and we continued to go it to get win 27.”

For basketball fans who like offense, Saturday’s game between two teams who love to get up and down the court was a joy to behold.

From a 4-4 tie, New Castle went on an 8-0 run to grab a 12-4 advantage at the 4:42 mark of the first quarter. Mason Gillis had 10 of those Trojan points and Bryce Webb had the other two.

A three-pointer by freshman Jalen Blackmon brought Marion to within 12-7, but Niah Williamson buried a trey and followed that with two successful free throws for a 17-7 New Castle lead with 3:55 remaining in the first period.

The Trojans still had a 10-point lead at 19-9 38 seconds later, but the Giants outscored New Castle 7-3 the rest of the frame to trail just 22-16 after one.

Gillis tallied 12 points, Williamson five, and Blake Burris three to lead the Green and White in the first stanza, while five players scored for Marion led by Blackmon’s six points.

Blackmon’s third three-pointer of the first half pulled the Giants to within 22-19 12 seconds into the second quarter, but the Trojans’ Nicholas Grieser hit a bucket, Williamson another trey, and Luke Bumbalough a pair of baskets for a 9-0 run and 31-19 New Castle advantage with 3:58 left in the second period.

After Marion’s Dre Aguilar hit a field goal, Gillis made a basket, Williamson another three-pointer, and Burris a bucket for a 7-0 run and 38-21 New Castle lead with 2:25 remaining in the first half, and the Trojans took a 40-25 advantage into the locker room at intermission.

“As a senior this feels great,” Williamson said afterward. “But we’re not satisfied. We have two more steps to take to get where we want to be.”

One thing hurting the Giants in the second quarter was they committed nine turnovers to just four for New Castle.

In the first half, the Trojans were 15-of-26 (57.7 percent) from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Marion countered with just 11-of-27 from the floor (40.7 percent) and didn’t attempt a single charity toss.

New Castle maintained a comfortable advantage in the third quarter and expanded on it.

After the Giants’ Tyrese Cobb hit a basket to make the score 46-31, the Trojans went on an 11-2 run to grab a huge 24-point lead, 57-33, with 3:21 left in the third period, and it looked as if the Green and White might win in a romp.

However, that was the biggest advantage in the contest for New Castle and Marion got back to within 64-45 after three.

Gillis scored 11 points, Bumbalough seven, and Grieser four for the Trojans in the stanza, while Cobb’s 10 points were one-half of what the Giants scored in the frame.

After a Bumbalough bucket made the Trojan lead 66-48 with 6:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, Marion went on an 11-2 run to trim the New Castle lead by one-half to 68-59 with 4:16 left in the game and fans of the Green and White were becoming a little nervous in their seats.

Gillis canned a bucket to stem the tide to make the score 70-59, but the Giants went on a 7-2 run, capped by a Blackmon three-pointer, to whittle the Trojan lead down to 72-66 with 2:22 remaining in the contest and things were really tightening up.

Aguilar was fouled with 1:46 remaining and had a chance to draw Marion to within four points, but missed both charity tosses.

Gillis hit one of two freebies and after the Giants threw the ball away, Bumbalough sank a pair of free throws with 1:16 left to boost the New Castle lead to 75-66.

The closest Marion came after that was 76-70, and Bumbalough added a final charity toss with 23.5 seconds on the clock to account for the final seven-point margin.

“This was great for our team, our fans, and our town,” Bumbalough said. “We bent toward the end but didn’t break, and we get to keep playing another week.”

The Trojans’ shooting from the field stayed warm in the second half, 13-of-24 for 54.2 percent, so they finished the game with 28-of-50 (56 percent). Marion heated up a bit in the second half from the floor, 14-of-27 for 51.9 percent, so the Giants finished the game 25-of-54 for 46.3 percent.

Both teams hit free throws pretty well, but New Castle was only 11-of-18 the second half to finish 17-of-24 for 70.8 percent. Marion made 13-of-16 charity tosses, all in the second half, for 81.3 percent accuracy.

Marion won the rebounding battle by a narrow 26-23 but committed 16 turnovers to just 11 for the Trojans.

Gillis led the way for New Castle with 30 points and eight rebounds, Bumbalough had 19 points and four boards, Williamson 12 points (all in the first half) and four rebounds, and Grieser added six points.

“We didn’t panic when they came back at us because we’d been in situations like this before,” Gillis said. “Defense has been the key for us this season and was what helped us win tonight, too.”

Blackmon had 25 points to lead the Giants, Cobb scored 14, Aguilar 12, and Jakylen Thomas 11.

Aguilar had seven rebounds, Tytavion Whitfield six. and Latrell Simpson four.

“We knew Blackmon was a great scorer,” Grieser said. “We just tried to stay with him, keep a hand in his face, and make him earn what we got.”

New Castle 77, Marion 70

MARION (70)

Blackmon 8-23 5-6 25, Whitfield 2-4 0-0 4, Aguilar 6-7 0-2 12, Thomas 4-9 2-2 11, Simpson 1-2 0-0 2, Cobb 4-6 4-4 14, Randolph 0-2 2-2 2, Balfour 0-0 0-0 0, Miles 0-0 0-0 0, Spurgon 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-54 13-16 70.

NEW CASTLE (77)

Bumbalough 6-15 7-11 19, Williamson 3-8 4-4 13, Grieser 3-4 0-1 6, Gillis 12-17 6-8 30, Webb 1-1 0-0 2, Burris 2-3 0-0 5, Hardwick 0-1 0-0 0, B. Huntley 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-50 17-24 77.

Marion 16 9 20 25 — 70

New Castle 22 18 24 13 — 77

3-point goals – Marion 7 (Blackmon 4, Cobb 2, Thomas), New Castle 4 (Williamson 3, Burris). Rebounds – Marion 26 (Aguilar 7, Whitfield 6, Simpson 4), New Castle 23 (Gillis 8, Bumbalough 4, Williamson 4). Total fouls – Marion 18, New Castle 17. Turnovers – Marion 16, New Castle 11. Fouled out – Thomas, Cobb, Gillis. Records – Marion 20-7, New Castle 27-2.