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Marion boys basketball Wildcats stun Nashville in shootout

  • Rayzhaun Bardo in weekend action against Cahokia.

    Rayzhaun Bardo in weekend action against Cahokia.
    Jonathan LeBlond photo

Special to the Marion Republican
updated: 12/12/2019 11:57 PM

MARION -- Playing the second-ranked team in Class 2A, and having your leading scorer held to just six points is typically a recipe for disaster. For the Marion Wildcat boys' basketball team, it was a challenge accepted.

Three players not named Jackson Connor scored in double figures, and Marion clipped the Nashville Hornets 41-39 in the sixth and final game of the Black Diamond Harley-Davidson Marion Wildcat Shootout at Wilson Gym.

The Wildcats improved to 4-2 with the win while the loss was the first for the Hornets after four wins to open the season.

Frankie Horner scored 12 points while Rayzhaun Bardo and Venson Newsom added 11 each.

Bardo scored nine of his 11 in the fourth quarter with three clutch 3-point shots and Newsom netted five in the final frame including a pair of important free throws and the game-winning 3-pointer with 17 seconds left.

"Hey, they're capable of it," said assistant coach Scott McKenty.

"We never doubted them for a second. Ray comes in extra and shoots and he finally got the results he was looking for. Venson showed a lot of toughness knocking down a shot. Frankie plays so hard. Tonight they showed up in a big moment."

The Wildcats had to overcome extreme adversity. Heading into the game, senior all-stater Jackson Connor was averaging 23.4 points per game, but only one other time had someone even scored in double figures.

And the Hornets apparently had the scouting report, triple and quadruple teaming Connor every time he touched the ball, making it different for him to get a touch let alone an unchallenged shot.

But Marion used a stingy defense of its own, holding the Hornets to 11 points in the first half.

After trailing 8-2 after one quarter, the Wildcats scored the first nine points of the second period to lead 11-8 and allowed only a 3-pointer by Nashville's Carson Parker at the halftime buzzer.

The defensive effort made up for the fact that Connor was held scoreless in the first half.

"It helps having four seniors on the floor a lot," said McKenty. "They know our coaching style and they are locked in practice. They come in and work hard every day and have a lot of energy every day."

Nashville finally found a little offensive rhythm in the third quarter, outscoring Marion 17-12 as Parker scored seven and Terry Pelczynski scored eight including a pair of 3-pointers to give the Hornets a 28-23 lead heading into the final frame.

That's when Bardo came to life. Back-to-back 3-pointers cut Nashville's lead to 35-34, and a steal and two-handed dunk by Connor gave the Wildcats a 36-35 lead.

Later, down 37-36, Newsom connected on a pair of free throws to give Marion the lead. Parker's two free throws put Nashville back on top 39-38.

Marion tried several times to unsuccessfully get the ball to Connor, and Bardo was suddenly covered up every time he touched the ball on the perimeter.

So the sophomore point guard drive into the lane and kicked the ball out to Newsom, who buried a 21-footer from the right wing with 17.3 seconds left to give the Wildcats the lead for good.

Nashville's Buzz Ritzel and Hercules missed 3-point attempts in the final seconds and Bardo rebounded the final attempt to secure the upset and set off a celebration.

"We've got a team that plays hard," McKenty said. "We have a fun team to watch. This is a real 10-man team."

Parker led Nashville with 14 points while Pelczynski added 11.

In other games at the shootout, Cobden beat Lyon County, Ky. 65-45, Centralia topped Gateway Legacy Christian Academy 75-60, Alton outlasted Paducah Tighlman 71-66, Champaign Central rallied last Carbondale 52-51 and Herrin edged Graves County, Ky. 48-45.

Marion is back in action Friday night on the road in South Seven play against Althoff, before returning home for a non-conference game against Massac County Saturday.

Tim Petrowich is the publisher and editor of Dateline Marion. You can find Dateline Marion online at