The last time Mount Union Men’s basketball won in Marietta was the 2014-2015 OAC championship game. That means an entire Senior class has felt the wrath of the home crowd at Ban Johnson Arena. The community and students came out in full support and gave Mount Union a feeling that they were playing five on six. On Wednesday night, #11 Mount Union (19-3) exited the BANJO 81-67 winners over #15 Marietta (18-4).
Both teams started slow and the game seemed to be all defense. The roster for Mount Union is stacked with playmakers and it just seemed that someone had to step up. Enter sophomore Collen Gurley. The Hoban High School sharp shooter ignited the offense with a slew of three balls the Raiders needed badly. Off Gurley’s 17 first half points and poor Marietta shooting, the Raiders lead 43-25 at half.
“We jumped out very early because we didn’t want that place to get a chance to get into the game.” Gurley said. The atmosphere was well known by the players as Gurley went on to add, “As a team, they feed off of the energy the building brings.”
A white-out themed Marietta crowd waited for a second half run anxiously. Soon enough, the Pioneers found their runs and the momentum changed. Marietta saw a 10-0 run and eventually a 5-0 that would bring the score to 66-62 with 2:57 left to play.
“When a team like that gets hot on their home court, things can get dangerous. That’s why our main goal was to stop them defensively, we did that.” Said senior sixth man, D’Vontay Friga. Friga once again offered a spark for coach Fuline on both ends of the floor. The Raiders needed what Friga gave them, 15 points and locking down Marietta big man, Caleb Hoying.
The final minutes would test the Raiders. Their lead of 20 was now at four. Guard play has been a highlight all year for the Raiders and it was no different in this big game. stepped up for the Raiders, after a clutch Gurley layup, Nathan Bower-Malone went on his 9-0 run. Bower Malone battled with different guards, the crowd, and the refs all day. His 21 points may have been his toughest all years.
Another interesting story line would be for a first year man in the BANJO. Freshman Chris Painter was tasked with his usual defensive role. The ST. Vincent-St. Mary’s product answered against a tough crowd. Marietta had just made one three pointer and Painter played into that.
“That was one of the craziest game environments I have been apart of, and it was really fun>” Said Painter who also credited the upperclassman saying “We had our seniors step up in a big way for us down the stretch. We needed that and we needed Collen to get us going early.”
The Raiders play again on Saturday as take on Heidelburg. The team currently sits at first in the OAC, #11 in the country, and have a chance to move up again. Stayed tuned with coverage on WRMU_sports on Twitter, 91.1 WRMU, and the Dynamo