Marietta outlasts Eagles
Early deficit too much to vanquish

MARIETTA - Friday night's first-round battle in the Class AAAAA state boys basketball tournament between Collins Hill and No. 5 state-ranked Marietta turned out to be a war of attrition.

Collins Hill may have had the fresher legs at the end, but the Eagles had too big an early hole to climb out of as Marietta bombed away from long range in the first quarter and eventually pulled away for a 63-47 victory at Marietta Garden.

"I'm proud of how we made some plays at the end against the No. (5) team in the state," Collins Hill coach Josh Grayson said after his team's season came to an end at 19-10. "But they hit some freak shots in the first quarter and hit seven 3-pointers in that first half. We did a lot better defensively against that in the second half, but that was hard to overcome."

The Eagles were missing starting guard T.J. Williams and three key reserves due to undisclosed reasons, while the host Blue Devils were without starting point guard Chris Tanzy the whole game and forward Deandre Cannon for most of it because of ankle injuries.

The Blue Devils (26-3), who advance to play Northview in the second round on Tuesday night, were red hot shooting from the opening tip.

Senior guard Stanley Jennings was particularly incendiary, hitting three shots from 3-point range as Marietta's first five field goals came from behind the arc.

Collins Hill also scored fairly well in the first quarter, but still trailed by nine points at two different points before rallying with a 7-2 run over the final 1:32 of the period to pull to within 21-17.

"We hit some shots and had other good looks at the basket (in the first half)," Grayson said. "But we never did keep pace. It seemed like they'd score three baskets every time we'd score one. It was a little frustrating."

The Eagles fell into a bigger hole after Jeremy Olsen's layup pulled them to within 25-19 with 5:31 left in the first half.

Steven Hunter answered with a running jumper from the baseline and Deijon Parker and Barrington Ferguson each connected from 3-point range, followed by two free throws by Ferguson to cap a 10-0 run that stretched Marietta's lead to 35-19.

Trailing 37-22 at halftime, Collins Hill tried to rally in the second half, twice cutting Marietta's lead to as little as 10 points, the last time at 43-33 after Saah Nimley's drive to the basket with 2:05 left in the third quarter.

But Marietta started the fourth quarter on a 10-2 run that pushed its lead back to 53-35 after Jennings drive through the lane with 3:36 left to play.

Still, the Eagles had fight left in them. They forced turnovers on the Blue Devils' next four possessions, and Andrew Anderson scored six points to lead a 12-2 run over the next 1:53 to pull Collins Hill to within 55-47 with 1:15 remaining.

The Eagles had a chance to pull even closer, but a turnover on their next possession stopped the momentum and Marietta hit 6 of 8 free throws over the final 1:13 to help the Blue Devils put the game away.

"We came out early and set the tone," Marietta coach Charlie Hood said. "We might've relaxed a little bit in the second half, but (Collins Hill) did some nice things, too, in the second half."

Anderson led Collins Hill with 18 points and three assists, while Olsen added a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

However, the Eagles didn't have an answer for Jennings, who finished with a game-high 24 points and added seven rebounds and four assists.

Ferguson and J.J. Bratton each added 11 points for Marietta, while J.C. Ward pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds.