BELOIT - The Dukes didn't give up, and the Warriors comeback surge fell short as Marlington topped West Branch 50-46 in an NBC tilt Friday.
Staring at a six-point deficit with around two minutes left on the clock, Marlington's Jesse Carpenter found a hot hand tallying eight points to give the Dukes the lead and eventual victory.
Marlington closed the game on a 10-0 run.
"Our kids chose to finish," Dukes head coach Nick Evanich said. "I'm proud of the way they finished. Our defensive pressure was key down the stretch."
Turning up the heat, Evanich called for full-court pressure which led to four West Branch turnovers in the waning moments of the game.
West Branch seemed flustered by the intensity and pressure of the strong Marlington press.
"We had them on the ropes, but we didn't finish," West Branch head coach John Hancock said. "We've seen their press, worked on it in practice, but at the end of the game it was a little different."
Marlington started the game on a 14-4 run and closed the first quarter with 14-8 lead. They kept their lead at 29-21 heading into the half thanks to Lucas Strouble's 13-point quarter.
Strouble finished with a game-high 23 points. Carpenter added 14.
Faltering out of gate, West Branch did bounce back after the half.
"We pressured well in the first half, but we left some points out there," Evanich said. "West Branch executed. We missed some good shots and we couldn't get into pressure."
In the third quarter, West Branch outscored their opponent by six points and was only down two points 35-33. The third-quarter surge was capitalized by an Austen Rekolt 3-pointer with just over three minutes left that brought the score to 31-29.
Rekolt hit another 3-pointer to give West Branch a 40-37 lead in the fourth. He finished the night with eight points.
"We had good looks in the third and we communicated better on defense," Hancock said. "We got caught on some backdoor screens. But you have to give credit to Marlington. We struggled hard to stop Strouble in the open court."
The Warriors were led by Matt Latham with 14 points. Jacob Griffith added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The loss may have wounded the Warriors, but Hancock believes there's plenty of fight left in his team.
"I'm proud of these kids," he said. "They really struggled the past two seasons. We've competed with everyone (this year). But we're no longer accepting moral victories. No one is more upset than these kids."
Marlington (5-4) will seek their fourth win in a row when they host Tuslaw Tuesday. West Branch drops to 5-4 and will take on the undefeated East Liverpool Potters Tuesday at home.
MARLINGTON: 14 15 6 15 - 50
WEST BRANCH: 8 13 12 13 - 46
MARLINGTON SCORING: Micah Hall 1-0-2, Alex Williamson 3-1-7, Lucas Strouble 11-1-23, Jesse Carpenter 3-5-14, Thomas Mason 2-0-4. TEAM TOTALS: 20, 7-15, 50.
WEST BRANCH: Kip DeShields 1-1-3, Scott Muckleroy 1-1-3, Austen Rekolt 2-2-8, Drake Lohnes 2-1-5, Jacob Griffith 6-1-13, Matt Latham 6-2-14. TEAM TOTALS: 18, 8-13, 46.
THREE POINTERS: Marlington 3 (Carpenter 3), West Branch