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Wildcats get big win over rival Carbondale

  • Marion's Jackson Connor and Carbondale's Jakeba Burleigh compete for the opening tip Saturday.

    Marion's Jackson Connor and Carbondale's Jakeba Burleigh compete for the opening tip Saturday.
    All photos by Justin Walker

By Justin Walker
updated: 2/18/2019 12:35 AM

CARBONDALE -- The ball hit the rim, bounced up into the air, defied a few laws of physics on the way down and fell through the net.

Boston Ziegler's graceful half-court shot off one leg at the halftime buzzer gave the crowd a thrill Saturday, but it also started a huge run for the Marion Wildcats and propelled them to a big 60-47 win over rival Carbondale.

Marion improved to 17-12 overall and 2-7 in the South Seven Conference with the victory, while Carbondale dropped to 20-6 and 5-5 in the game that was delayed from Friday due to winter weather.

Ziegler's rim-dancer came after Davaris Macklin made two free throws to cut Marion's lead to 24-23 with 2.3 seconds left before the intermission break. And later it would prove to be the first points of a 21-4 run as Marion built an 18-point lead.

"They make a run and that happens and now you go in and it's a two-possession game instead of one," said Marion coach Gus Gillespie. "As crazy as it sounds, that's a big deal. Boston was really solid the entire game. He had a very good game."

After the break, Brett Lewis scored and Jackson Connor hit two free throws, then Rayzhaun Bardo took in a layup for a double-digit lead. Lewis dropped in a putback and Connor banked in a shot as the Wildcats were off and running.

Bardo banked in a fadeaway jumper of his own at the third-quarter buzzer and Connor drilled a 3-pointer for the first points of the fourth period to cap the 21-4 run that put Marion up 45-27 with 6:45 remaining.

"You've got to make shots against Carbondale," Gillespie said. "They're as good defensively as any team in Southern Illinois. Our guys made some shots and you have to step up and do that to beat a team like this."

Carbondale went on a 6-0 run and eventually got as close as 52-43 on a Macklin layup with 2:06 left, but Connor sank two free throws and made a layup and Bardo, a freshman, drilled four straight free tosses to help seal it.

Connor, a 6-foot-5 junior, finished with a game-high 24 points.

"He was pretty good," Gillespie said. "He was active and obviously part of their game plan was to try and shut him down. But he's a big kid and it's hard to keep the ball out of his hands."

Ziegler tallied 15 points and Bardo chipped in 11 and drew high praise from his coach.

"Bardo was a lot looser today," Gillespie said. "When he's around that 10 to 12 point range, it makes us a totally different team."

Fairleigh Ward led Carbondale with 13 points. Jakeba Burleigh and Macklin both had eight.

Marion improved its record in Saturday games to 10-1 with the win. Gillespie thought they were undefeated but forgot about the loss to Mundelein during the Carbondale Holiday Tournament.

Marion has just one regular season game left, this coming Friday at home against Centralia, before beginning the Class 3A postseason three days later on Feb. 25 against Carterville at the Massac County Regional.

Carbondale is the top seed in that regional and entire sub-sectional.

"This was a big win," Gillespie said. "We've got one more week and we have to try to get better, but the kids have to feel good about where they're at and continue to work."

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