Marietta, Ohio – Buoyed by 21 points from Tournament MVP Joe Puch, host Marietta College scored a 76-72 victory over Brevard College Tuesday night in the Championship game of the 38th Annual Marietta Shrine Tournament. With the win, the Pioneers capture the tournament for the 17th time in 38 years.
Brevard (5-3, 0-1 South Atlantic Conference) raced out to a quick 8-0 lead, capped by a lay-up from Nathan Whitmire (Rosman, N.C.) at the 15:39 mark. But Marietta (6-5, 1-2 Ohio Athletic Conference) found their offensive game thanks to the sweet shooting of Puch (Brunswick, Ohio) and Rydell Chrisman (Coshocton, Ohio).
Puch hit the second of three straight made three-pointers with 6:19 left in the half to tie the game at 16 apiece, and Chrisman gave the Pioneers a lead they would not relinquish, 24-21, with a three-ball a the 1:52 mark. Another trey from Chrisman 45 seconds before the halftime break gave Marietta a 27-22 intermission lead.
Brevard, which shot just 33.3% in the first half, ramped up their offensive attack in the second half, but the Pioneers responded in kind. The Tornados cut the deficit to four points on a Jonathan Whitson (Clyde, N.C.) basket with 15:06 remaining, but the Pioneers roared back with a 12-5 run of their own. A Chrisman fast break bucket with 12:00 to play ended the run and gave the hosts a double-digit lead at 45-34.
But the veteran Tornados did not roll over for their hosts. Down nine after a free throw from Puch with 5:12 to play, the Tornados clawed back into the contest with a 7-0 run of their own and cut the margin to just two as a pair of free throws from Darin Dellinger (Stanley, N.C.) made the game 57-55 with 3:10 on the clock. After the teams traded baskets, a Dellinger three-pointer connected to bring Brevard within a point, 62-61, at the 1:39 mark.
The final 1:39 was a wild affair that was ultimately won by the Pioneers on the strength of rock solid free throw shooting. The Tornados got three-pointers from Dellinger, Cody Siniard (Brevard, N.C.) and Christian Matus (Miami, Fla.) down the stretch, but Marietta hit their ten of their final 11 free throws, including four straight from Trevor Halter (Malvern, Ohio) in the final :08, to salt the game away and win 76-72.
“I was disappointed with how we played tonight, especially against Marietta’s 1-2-2 zone defense,” Brevard head coach Michael Jones said after the game. “But at the same time, you have to give credit to Marietta,” he added. “They played with great intensity on both sides of the floor and they deserved to win tonight.”
Whitson led the Tornados with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Dellinger added 14 points and Matus ten. Puch paced the victorious Pioneers with 21 points, including five baskets from long distance, while Chrisman hit a quartet of threes and finished with 16. Halter, a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line, added 11.
As a team the Tornados shot 42.6% from the floor. Marietta shot 38.9% but hit ten of 28 shots from long distance (35.7%) and 24 of 29 free throws (82.8%). All of Marietta’s free throws came in the second half, as the Tornados were whistled for 21 second stanza fouls.
Whitson, Dellinger, Puch and Chrisman were joined on the All-Tournament team by Westminster's Ryne Murray and Emory & Henry's Josh Brown. Puch, who scored 21 points in both games, was named Tournament MVP.
Brevard will resume SAC play Saturday as the Mars Hill Lions ride down I-26 for a 4 p.m. match-up. Marietta will play at Muskingum on January 7 at 7:30 p.m.