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Marion hopes to build on 7-2 start at holiday tourney

 
By John Homan
Managing Editor
jhoman@localsouthernnews.com
Posted on 12/27/2017, 1:00 AM

MARION -- The Marion Wildcats will be the clear-cut favorite tonight at 8 when they take on McCluer High School out of Florissant, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, in the opening round of the 54th annual Carbondale Holiday Tournament.

The Wildcats are off to a 7-2 start overall, while the Comets are struggling at 1-6 after winning the season opener against Pattonville.

Still, being the favorite doesn't necessarily equate to a win, says Marion first-year head coach Gus Gillespie, especially when competing against a St. Louis-area team.

"They're athletic and have played a challenging schedule," Gillespie said. "They're also getting a few guys back to their roster who were hurt during the football season."

A long layoff in between games concerns Gillespie, as well, as the Wildcats last played 11 days ago in a win at Belleville Althoff.

"I'm not sure how the layoff will affect us," Gillespie added.

"I expect a tough game. We're going to have to be ready to play."

Should Marion win, it will then play the winner of Memphis University (7-2) and Union City, Tennessee (10-2) game that precedes the Wildcats' game at 3 p.m.

The semifinals are Thursday and the championship round is Friday.

Gillespie said the tournament will pit the Wildcats against strong competition, something that could help toughen the team in its quest to win the South Seven Conference.

"Our first two games after the tournament are at home against Carbondale and Harrisburg -- two pretty tough opponents," Gillespie said.

"What I'm looking for is improvement. We need to execute better on offense and continue to work hard on the defensive end. So far, we've done a pretty good job of that."