- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Standing at the free throw line, Reggie Jones looked like he’d been in this scenario before: six seconds remaining, up by three and two free throws that could bring a state championship home for the Marion Giants.

Jones hit both free throws, finishing with 25 points as the Giants won the IHSAA class 3A state championship with a 73-68 victory over the Evansville Bosse Bulldogs.

Marion (23-7) trailed by as many as 12 during the first half and went into halftime down 35-25. But the Giants outscored the Bulldogs 31-15 in the third quarter and led by six heading into the fourth.

“At halftime, it was, we have 16 minutes left to play in this game, don’t put our heads down, and stay focused,” Marion coach James Blackmon Sr. said. “We had to keep our composure. I think the second half we went out and took care of the basketball. We executed on both ends. It’s an outstanding feeling. Our community rallied around the team all year long.”

Evansville Bosse (19-11) wasn’t going away, though. Just as the Giants came storming back, so, too, did the Bulldogs. Evansville Bosse put together a 10-3 run that pulled them within two points with less than three minutes remaining. With just under two minutes to play, Ethan Thomas hit a three that gave Evansville Bosse a one-point lead. But that would be its last lead. Mekhi Lairy led all Bulldogs with 28 points. Javi Langley scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but fouled out in the fourth quarter during a crucial stretch for the Bulldogs.

With 54 seconds to play in the game, momentum shifted to Evansville Bosse when Quentavian Stewart caught a wide open pass on the baseline and hit a layup. But what would have been the go-ahead bucket was waived off. Stewart stepped out of bounds before scoring, turning the ball over.

On the ensuing Marion possession, the Giants ran the clock down to 17 seconds before the Bulldogs fouled.

And when they fouled, it was Reggie Jones who went to the line, extending the Giants’ lead to 71-68. But what was more impressive was Jones’ ability to avoid getting called for a foul while playing aggressively on both sides of the ball, Blackmon Sr. said. Jones played most of the fourth quarter with four fouls.

“Reggie was attacking the rim. He’s a mismatch problem. He had four fouls and I still played him. He means a lot to our team. His presence on both ends of the court. In the second half, he showed how valuable he was,” Blackmon Sr. said.

With 14 seconds remaining, the Giants immediately fouled Evansville Bosse on the inbound play, forcing them to the free throw line where the Bulldogs’ Erik Bell missed the front end of a one-and-one. Marion rebounded and Jones went to the free throw line, slamming the door on Evansville Bosse’s championship hopes with those clutch free throws. The Giants won the school’s first state championship in 16 years.

“”It’s going to hurt for a while,” Evansville Bosse head coach Shane Burkhart said. “Reggie Jones hit a lot of shots and free throws and had a tremendous second half.”

“This young man was able to turn the table for (Marion).”

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