(Moulton) - The Marion Bulldogs open the 3A boys basketball playoffs tonight against the same team that eliminated them from the 2016 post-season, Vanderbilt-Industrial, and in the same gymnasium at Moulton High School.
The Cobras ousted the Bulldogs 48-42 in the second round last year, and a number players from that game return for the 2017 bi-district rematch, with two notable absences. The go-to scorers for both 2016 squads, Marion's Logan Pogue (20 points) and Industrial's Brandon Alexander (23 points), graduated in the off-season, but the Bulldogs and Cobras have continued to play winning basketball.
Coach Jon Allen's Bulldogs clawed through a tough regular season schedule with a 21-10 overall record, competing against a number of 4A and 5A opponents during non-district play before going 9-5 (third place) in a District 27-3A race that included two TABC state-ranked teams, No. 14 Randolph and No. 17 Schulenburg. Three of the four losses to the Ro-Hawks and Shorthorns were by six points or less.
Marion utilizes a balanced attack offensively, with junior guard Fabian Guerrero (12.1) and sophomore forwards Jacob Wallace (11.7) and Jackson Allen (9.6) all averaging at or near double figures. Throw in sophomore wing Tyler Bridges (7.8), and senior guards J.D. Raggio (6.6) and Cole Holden (6.4), and the Bulldogs have been able to go after opponents in a variety of ways.
"From the beginning of this year, I've always thought that we've had a lot of versatility," Allen said. "All of our players can dribble, they all rebound, they all can defend. To me, it's a tough matchup to other teams, because we can use that to our advantage, post people up or pull them outside. My post players can shoot threes and my post players can shoot threes and my post players can post up, so I think it makes us a tough matchup."
Vanderbilt-Industrial went 21-12 during the regular season and finished second in District 28-3A behind Van Vleck with a 7-3 district record. Coach Rusty Roe's Cobras like to play at a deliberate pace and enter tonight averaging 50.6 points per game on the season.
Allen looks for the Bulldogs to be disruptive on defense and force Industrial to play at an uncomfortable tempo.
"Get them out of what they're used to doing," Allen said. "They definitely like to be patient on offense, and they move the ball well. Watching them play, their style of offense is keep scored down. They're averaging probably right at 50 points a game, and most of their district games are in the 40s, so they like to keep the score down, so for us it's going to be pressuring those guards and trying to get them out of what they do offensively."
Kyle Alexander, the younger brother of Industrial's 2016 scoring leader Brandon, is one of the Cobras' top performers this season. He netted 16 points in their last game, a 44-41 district win over Tidehaven. Mason Maraggia is a capable low post player who scored a game-high 13 points in Industrial's third-place clinching win over Edna on Feb. 10.
Tonight's opening tip in Moulton is slated for 7 p.m. The game will air live on KWED 1580 AM and Seguintoday.com, with pre-game coverage at 6:45.