Sports Talk: MC head hoops coach appreciates fan, community support

When Marietta College plays host Dickinson College in a first-round NCAA Division III tournament men’s basketball game at 7 p.m. this Saturday in Carlisle, Pa., Jon VanderWal is hoping to see a lot of students and fans in navy blue and white.

“Those kids are awesome,” said the MC head coach after the Pioneers rallied to defeat Mount Union, 80-76, in overtime at last Saturday’s Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament final at Ban Johnson Arena.

“I walk around campus,” VanderWal continued, “and they all say hi to me, talk to me about the game, and how much fun they have coming to the game.

“That’s what’s neat about Marietta is our campus and our community.”

No question about it, the BJA crowd played a big part in MC’s comeback triumph against the Purple Raiders.

“I just really appreciate the support that this community and our student body gives us,” VanderWal said.

Too bad that Marietta (20-7) isn’t home to play Dickinson (20-7). Oh, well…

MC attacked and benefitted from the foul situation

With sharpshooters like Jacob Owens, J.J. Martin, Tyler Hammond, Scott Kimmey, Tyler Worstell, and Brennan McKean, Marietta is a great 3-point shooting team.

But when the Pioneers attacked the basket, that’s basically how they were able to erase a 20-point deficit against Mount Union and ultimately win. Sounds simple, but it’s not.

“I thought in the first half that we got good penetration but then our guards either shot it going away from the hoop, or they spun around and made a different kind of play,” VanderWal said. “We were down and we were going to have to force the issue. So when you go to the rim, you’ve got to get fouled or get there all the way.

“The same thing with the post guys. I thought they (Mount Union) out-toughed us the first half. They were pushing us off the blocks. We weren’t able to get any post touches. We got nothing going at the hoop in the first half, so that was definitely a focal point in the second half to get more action to the hoop.”

Marietta trailed 40-25 at the intermission.

After the break, the Pioneers were down 54-34 at the 11:53 mark.

But then, things started to slowly turn around. With 11:42 left, MC was in the one-and-one, and that coincidentally was also the start of what turned out to be an 18-0 run.

At the 9:01 mark, Jacob Owens hit a three and was fouled in the act of shooting. The foul was Mount Union’s 10th, and it put MC in the double bonus at the charity stripe for the remainder of the game.

“I think we were in the double bonus really early on, which was our goal,” VanderWal said. “When you’re in the double bonus with a lot of time left, it’s going to slow the game down quite a bit – and extend the game.”

Extend it indeed – into another overtime at Ban Johnson Arena and another dramatic Marietta College win.

“That’s how we like to do it around here,” smiled VanderWal, facetiously.

Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at