LEXINGTON TWP. — It’s always fun when two longtime rivals get together for a game of basketball in front of a standing-room-only crowd. The fans were not disappointed.
That was the case Friday night when the Marlington Dukes played hosted to former longtime conference rival Louisville.
The game was close for a half, but the Dukes outscored the Leopards 37-20 in the second half to cruise to a 61-42 victory.
The win improves Marlington to 12-2 for the year, while the Leopards fall to 10-4.
Marlington grabbed an early 16-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter, but the Leopards outscored the Dukes 13-5 in the period to trail only two at 24-22.
Marlington coach Nick Evanich praised the Leopards for their play.
“Louisville is an outstanding team,” Evanich said. “They will be a force in the tournament.”
Evanich appreciated the value of a large home crowd.
“We had a tremendous environment for the kids to play in tonight,” said Evanich.
Evanich said the Dukes didn’t make any changes at halftime, but the players picked up their effort on defense.
“They [Louisville] made a run in the second quarter and kind of had us on our heels,” Evanich said. “We got to halftime, caught our breath and I feel like we defended extremely well. The defense was great, and we were able to keep up on their shooters but take away the drives to the basket.”
Louisville was a much bigger and more physical team than the Dukes, but Marlington held its own on the boards. Louisville outrebounded Marlington 33-27.
“Our rebounding and defense," Evanich said. “I thought at halftime they hurt us on offensive rebounds, but we did a much better job in the second half.”
Senior Connor Evanich led all rebounders in the game with 15, to go along with his 15 points.
“He [Connor] had a monster game. I also thought Ben Yoder was outstanding on defense for us,” Evanich said. “But this was a great team effort. You hold [Louisville] under 50 points, you have accomplished something.”
Offensively, the Dukes were led by junior guard Casey Miller with 19 points, including five 3-pointers. Junior Tommy Skelding also finished in double figures with 12 points, while junior Drew Denham added eight, junior Caden Bates chipped in with three and Yoder and senior Sam Dine a bucket each.
For the Leopards, three players hit double figures. Sophomore Hayden Nigro led the Leopards with 24 points, with junior Will Aljancic and senior Tyler Boldon each adding 10.
Louisville coach Tom Siegfried thought his team could have played better.
“We didn’t play really well and Marlington played really well, and they should be commended for that,” Siegfried said.
Siegfried said the third quarter was the key.
“The had a couple guys get hot for them,” Siegfried said. “They are a very well-rounded team and that showed tonight. They had a bunch of seniors and Nick [Evanich] does a good job with them.”
“We had plenty of good looks, but some nights they just didn’t fall,” Siegfried said.
This article originally appeared on The Alliance Review: Marlington boys basketball defeats Louisville Friday night