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Pioneers fall to Comets, drop 4th straight game | News, Sports, Jobs

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Marietta College’s Sahmi Willoughby battles for possession of the ball during a college men’s basketball game against Capital Wednesday at Ban Johnson Arena. (Photo by Kerry Patrick)

MARIETTA — Coming off a rough road trip, losing at home felt worse than a few bee stings.

Wednesday night at Ban Johnson Arena, Marietta College coach Jon VanderWal described Wednesday’s 86-83 loss to Capital and the Pioneers’ three road losses like being hit by a sledgehammer.

Not since the 2009-10 season have the Pioneers’ men’s basketball team experienced four straight losses.

“I haven’t been through this in a long time,” said VanderWal after his ballclub fell to 9-7 and 4-5 in the Ohio Athletic Conference. “We have good kids in that locker room and they are battling. I don’t think we were ready for the intensity and the speed of the game. We’re just trying to figure it out. It’s just a struggle right now.”

Capital, which came out of the gate hitting seven of its first 11 shots while building a 20-8 lead, eventually got MC’s best shot throughout the majority of the first half and part of the final 20 minutes.

David Sanford, MC’s hybrid starter who handles the point and the off guard position, put MC on his shoulders and kept the Pioneers in a back-and-forth contest. The transfer from Capital made four 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 24 points.

“Sanford is best at the point guard spot, but Jac (Alexander) is our leader, too,” VanderWal said. “We can play David at the 1 or the 2, but I feel he plays better with the ball in his hands.

“Again, it’s searching for the right lineup and what we are trying to do there.”

The Comets, who took over sole possession of fourth place in the OAC at 5-4 and 9-7 overall, used the 3-pointer as their weapon at the outset then returned with five threes in the span of 5 1/2 minutes to expand the lead to 74-64.

Another Capital surge, this one of the 10-0 variety, left MC trailing 84-70 with 3:20 remaining in regulation.

Identical to Sanford’s effort, teammate Cooper Parrott dominated the scoring chores as the Pioneers limited Capital to two made free throws the rest of the way. Parrott accounted for 12 straight MC points, including eight in the span of 30 seconds. The junior’s fadeaway jumper at 14.2 seconds sliced the deficit to 84-82 with 14 seconds showing.

Parrott finished with 22 points.

Capital had multiple opportunities to ice the game, but twice a Comet made just one of two free throws — the last one occurring at 2.9 seconds and MC down 86-83. Turnovers down the stretch also cost Capital, which finished with 16 for the game compared with seven for MC.

During a timeout, coach VanderWal called for Jack Main and asked if he could make the throw — meaning the inbounds pass from underneath the Capital bucket. Entering the game for the first time, Main deked his defender along the baseline, connected with Sahmi Willougbhy just beyond half-court, who quickly passed to Parrott for a deep 3.

Parrott, who made four 3-pointers for the game, got a good look despite having a defender nearby, but the shot rimmed around and out as time expired.

“Cooper hit some big shots down the stretch,” VanderWal said. “I told him in the locker room, ‘Don’t beat yourself up over missing that last shot.’ It was a deep three and a tough shot. I thought it was going in.

“We executed that last play. There was a tall guy defending and our guy did what he was taught to do. He juked the guy. There were a bunch of things that went on in that quick play that we executed to perfection. The ball just didn’t go through the hoop.”

Six Capital players scored in double figues, including Carter Combs with 15 points on the strength of four 3-pointers in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the game. For the game, Capital shot 52% (13-of-25) from beyond the arc.

For MC, Lovenson Xavier scored 14 points, while Ethan Andersen came off the bench for another 10 points to go with seven rebounds. After missing its first eight shots from the floor to open the second half, MC closed the game at 35% overall (28-of-80).

The Pioneers return to Ban Johnson Arena on Saturday for a 2 p.m. contest against Ohio Northern, which marks the start of the second half of the OAC season.

“Those last three-plus minutes just shows you the character of our guys,” VanderWal said. “We’ve done that like three times in a row now. We were dead to the world against Mount Union, came back and had a chance to tie it up. We battled back against Heidelberg then today we were down double-digits and had a shot to perhaps to tie it and send it into OT.

“We’re not going to give up. I guarantee that. I won’t let that happen. And these guys won’t let that happen. We just need to have a different look in our eye and be a little tougher, execute our system and do what we do better.”

Contact Kerry Patrick at [email protected]

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