High school basketball: Dunnellon posts comeback win over North Marion in girls basketball

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DUNNELLON — After losing to North Marion by 38 points in December, the Dunnellon girls basketball team showed how much it has improved with a thrilling 71-67 come-from-behind district victory against NMHS on Wednesday night.

The loss dropped the Colts to 12-6 overall and 1-1 in District 4-4A. The Tigers, who were led by junior guard Kmari Williams' game-high 31 points, improved to 20-2 (1-1).

"It was a heck of a ballgame," second-year Dunnellon coach Chris Thompson said. "I told the girls they had to dig deep because (the Colts have) got heart, we got heart and in the end it's going to come down to has more heart and our girls pulled through. We lost to North Marion early in the season pretty bad, so this is a big statement for our team."

The first quarter was tightly contested as NMHS junior center Dy'ani Hadley scored eight of her team-high 28 points and junior guard Brianna Garcia added six of her 16.

Dunnellon's Kmari Williams drives through North Marion's E'niah Tensley. The Dunnellon Tigers defeated the North Marion Colts 71-67 in a girls district basketball game Wednesday night, Jan. 19, 2022, in Dunnellon.
Dunnellon's Kmari Williams drives through North Marion's E'niah Tensley. The Dunnellon Tigers defeated the North Marion Colts 71-67 in a girls district basketball game Wednesday night, Jan. 19, 2022, in Dunnellon.

Dunnellon answered as sophomore guard Tatiana Matthews scored seven points, Williams had five and Paige Powell drained a pair of 3-pointers, including one at the buzzer off a perfectly executed inbounds play, to give the Tigers a 21-20 lead heading to the second period.

The back-and-forth action continued as North Marion's D'Nhia Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer as part of a 13-point effort and Garcia added four points to give the Colts a slim lead midway through the quarter.

DHS responded as Williams scored eight points and center Dijonay Foster added six points to put the Tigers up by two with less than a minute to play in the half.

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North Marion's Hadley, who had 14 rebounds, pulled down a missed shot and powered her way to the basket for a layup to tie the score at 39 at halftime.

Back and forth in the second half

Dunnellon struggled to put the ball in the basket early in the third period and NMHS took advantage, as Johnson scored four points, Hadley added four and E'niah Tensley drained a trey from the right wing to give the Colts a 52-43 lead with 3:54 left in the quarter.

DHS roared back, thanks to several North Marion turnovers and the talented Williams, who torched the nets for 12 points to pull the Tigers within 55-52 heading to the final eight minutes.

North Marion's Brianna Garcia shoots over Dunnellon's Paige Powell.
North Marion's Brianna Garcia shoots over Dunnellon's Paige Powell.

North Marion continued to battle and Garcia's floater in the lane put the Colts up, 63-58, with 3:56 remaining in the game.

Dunnellon refused to quit as Matthews scored three of her 21 points and Williams added six, including a free throw and a banked 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Tigers a 67-65 lead.

North Marion turned the ball over on its next possession and was forced to foul. Matthews calmly swished both free throws to extend Dunnellon's lead to 71-67 with 17.3 seconds left in the game.

A desperation 3-pointer by North Marion bounced off the rim and Dunnellon grabbed the rebound and ran out the clock to seal the exciting victory.

"We knew it was going to be a ballgame," Thompson said. "We historically have been a Kmari and Tatiana team, but my focus this year was to get the team involved to get some of the pressure off them. Dijonay played well and our bench stepped up tonight and really put up some points. I want people to know that Dunnellon is a full team, we're not just a two-person team."

Dunnellon, which honored Williams before the game for scoring her 1,000th career point this week, is looking to ride the momentum from this victory into the district tournament which begins in two weeks.

"This is a huge win for us and our goal is to win the district title," Thompson said. "Dunnellon is known as a football school, we want it to be known as a girls basketball school, too."

DHS is back on the hardwood with a game at Crystal River tonight. North Marion will visit Heart Home School on Monday at 6:30 p.m.

This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: Dunnellon posts comeback win over North Marion in girls basketball

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