(Seguin) – If the Marion Bulldogs hope to extend the most successful boys basketball season in school history and keep their state tournament dreams alive, they’ll have to unseat defending 3A Region IV champion Santa Rosa in tonight’s regional tournament semifinal at Goldie Harris Gym.
Marion (29-6), led by 11th-year head coach Jon Allen, rides a 19-game winning streak into its first ever regional semifinal after a perfect 14-0 run to the District 27-3A championship and three double-digit playoff wins.
The Bulldogs cruised past Vanderbilt-Industrial 66-46 and Comfort 64-45 in last week’s bi-district and area rounds, and pulled away late to outlast Schulenburg 56-45 in Tuesday’s regional quarterfinals.
Santa Rosa is making its third straight appearance in the regional tournament, and has advanced at least three playoff rounds in each of the past five seasons.
The Warriors lost the bulk of their nucleus from last year’s UIL State Tournament team to graduation, but they still went 8-0 in District 32-3A this season to capture the program’s 14th straight district title under head coach Johnny Cipriano.
Santa Rosa’s overall record is 22-14 after advancing through Bishop 75-43, Goliad 90-61, and Corpus Christi-London 76-71 in the first three rounds of the playoffs.
Tonight features a matchup up contrasting styles.
Santa Rosa is a guard-heavy team that plays up-tempo basketball, presses the length of the court, and launches three-pointers with impunity.
The Warriors’ senior guard AB Lozoya poured in 40 points, including 20 of the team’s final 27, in the come-from-behind win over London earlier this week. Ryan Perez also reached double figures with 16. .
Marion will try to slow the tempo, play a half-court game, and utilize its size advantage inside with junior forwards Jackson Allen (6’5”) and Jacob Wallace (6’4”).
Allen is averaging 13.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and pulled down a game-high 15 boards Tuesday against Schulenburg.
Wallace averages 12.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, and has become quite the passer in recent weeks, dishing out 22 assists in his last four games.
The smallest player in Marion’s lineup has been a giant during the team’s playoff run. Point guard Creet Rabenaldt, a 5’6” senior, has averaged 17.3 points in three post-season games after scoring at a 9.2 clip in the regular season.
Rabenaldt poured in a game-high 22 in the regional quarterfinals on Tuesday. He drained four first-half threes against Schulenburg and nailed six free throws in the final 36 seconds to ice the game.
Marion and Santa Rosa square off in the first regional semifinal at 6 p.m., followed by San Antonio-Cole and Santa Gertrudis in the 8 p.m. game. The two winners will play for the 3A Region IV title and a trip to the UIL State Tournament on Saturday at 1 p.m.
All Marion action in the regional tournament will air live on KWED 1580 AM and Seguintoday.com. Tonight’s pre-game coverage begins at 5:45.