The Marion College Titans men’s basketball team started and finished a perfect season Saturday, Feb. 9. Indiana Wesleyan University’s Wildcats took the name Titans and donned throwback jerseys for the day, honoring the school’s Marion College roots from 1968-88.
The official scoresheet may have said IWU, but the packed house in Luckey Arena knew it was a day to “Remember the Titans.”
Maybe the Titans wouldn’t have admitted it before the game, but this matchup versus the co-Crossroads League-leading Bethel College Pilots was a must-win. Marion delivered in dramatic comeback fashion to steal a 67-65 victory.
“It’s a huge win,” Titans coach Greg Tonagel said after the game. “To come off a two-game losing streak, to be down most of the game: It says a lot about our guys. I’m proud of the resiliency and proud of the togetherness that we showed.”
Marion fought back from being down as many as 11 points in the first half and 10 points halfway through the second.
In addition to playing in front of more than 40 Marion College athletics alumni who were honored at halftime, the Titans had even more to play for Saturday. After a victory against Bethel earlier in the season, Pilots players let frustration get the best of them following the game. That emotion carried over to this contest’s postgame as well, as Bethel’s Jordan Bowerman (sr) went after Marion’s George Jones IV (sr) on the court right after the buzzer. Taylor Schoen (sr) stepped in for the Titans to keep Bowerman away.
“After they were talking crap last game, we wanted to beat them so bad,” said Patrick Hopkins (sr) who scored 18 points and blocked Bethel’s last-chance shot at the end of the game.
“Beating Bethel and being on top, I feel like it will just propel us to the end of the year and give us exactly what we needed.”
“It definitely gives us momentum,” added Jordan Weidner (jr), who led the Titans with 19 points. “We’ve been struggling coming off two straight losses, and I think it was huge to have this big win against another team we’re head-to-head with at the top of the conference. We definitely needed the win.”
By beating the Pilots, the Titans improved IWU’s record to 12-4 in the Crossroads League and 23-5 overall on the season. Coupled with the Taylor Trojans loss to Huntington, this gave the Wildcats a one-game lead over Bethel, Taylor and Grace College.
“We work hard in the preseason to get ready for games like this, and our hard work definitely paid off,” Hopkins said. “That’s another reason why I love our team: We can fight through any game; we can win by one or win by two, it doesn’t matter. We know we’re going to pull it out in the end because we play so well together. It’s fun winning with these guys.”
With the Crossroads League tournament less than a week away, Tonagel said this game laid out the plan for the rest of the season and what his team must do to finish strong.
“We had a lot of contributions from a lot of the guys. It wasn’t just the big two. When we [do that] we’re pretty tough to beat,” Tonagel said. “Hopefully, this gives us some momentum; hopefully we get back to playing the basketball we know we can play.”
That momentum continued to the next game Tuesday, when IWU defeated Taylor 52-49, guaranteeing at least a share of the Crossroads League Championship. The Wildcats’ final game of the season is Saturday against Goshen at Luckey Arena.