(Wimberley) - Marion's balanced scoring attack and size in the paint proved to be more than Comfort could handle Friday night as the Bulldogs notched their 18th straight win, 64-45, in the area round of the Class 3A boys basketball playoffs at Wimberley's Texan Gym.
The win advances Marion (28-6) to the third round of the UIL playoffs for the first time since 2015 and the third time in Jon Allen's 11 years as head coach. The Bulldogs face district rival Schulenburg in the regional quarterfinals on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Seguin's Goldie Harris Gym.
Senior point guard Creet Rabenaldt, junior forward Jackson Allen, and sophomore guard Zach Goodwin shared team-high scoring honors with 14 points apiece against Comfort, but Marion's best all-around performance came from junior forward Jacob Wallace.
Wallace stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and three blocked shots. A versatile 6'4" athlete who can play inside and on the perimeter, Wallace has totaled 18 assists in his last three games. Friday, he operated primarily in the high post area just outside the free throw line against Comfort's press and zone defenses, and either found Goodwin for open mid-range jumpers on the baseline or attacked the rim, where he either scored or drew fouls.
"That was our game plan," Allen said of Wallace working the middle of the court. "We worked on that in practice, and I just knew that he's hard to cover once he gets the ball at that high post, and I knew he could go find the open guy, and that's literally what we wanted to do. It couldn't have worked any better."
Goodwin scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half to help Marion build an 18-12 lead by the end of the first quarer, stretch the margin to 14 in the second period, and take a 31-20 cushion into halftime.
Rabenaldt hit Marion's only two threes in the first half and netted eight points before the intermission. After scoring just two points in the first half, Allen went to work in the third and fourth quarters, producing 12 points on four field goals and a perfect 4-4 outing at the free throw. He helped out the boards as well with six rebounds.
Marion pushed the lead to 20 points in the third quarter, survived a 7-0 Comfort run that cut it back to 13, and took a 48-33 advantage into the fourth period. The Bulldogs never allowed the Bobcats to threaten in the final frame.
In addition to the four Marion players in double figures, Fabian Guerrero contributed seven points, and Bobby Kelly rounded out the scoring with two.
After shooting just 30 percent and scoring a season-low 33 points in a regular season loss to Marion on Dec. 12, Comfort connected on 51.7 percent of its shots in Friday's playoff rematch. The Bulldogs negated that accuracy by attempting 22 more shots than the Bobcats, in large measure because of a 15-6 advantage on the offensive glass. Marion enjoyed an efficient shooting performance as well, going 25-51 on field goal attempts (.490) and 12-16 (.750) at the free throw line.
Coach Allen says the Bulldogs pulled away and established a sizeable lead once they found the right balance between offensive rebounding and transition defense.
"Our game is defense, and we want to shut people down," the coach said. "We didn't want to let them run out, and they got a few easy ones early, but we were over aggressive trying to crash the boards, which I like, but that plays into them when they get the rebound, so we fixed that, and everything worked out."
Marion's 3A regional quarterfinal matchup with Schulenburg will air live Tuesday evening on KWED 1580 AM and Seguintoday.com, with pre-game coverage from Seguin's Goldie Harris Gym starting at 6:45 p.m.