Wolfpack holds off Mariner

  • Bob Mortenson<br>For the Enterprise
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:42am


The Mariner Marauders might just be the most improved team in the Western Conference.

After trailing by as many as 15 points the host Marauders battled back before falling 56-52 to the Jackson Timberwolves in a thrill-a-minute Wesco South Division boys basketball game on Dec. 15.

Last season’s 6-14 overall record is apparently very ancient history to a Mariner team that features three sophomore starters.

One of them, beefy 6-foot-3 post Damascus Purnell, scored 10 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter to lead Mariner back from a double-digit deficit.

Purnell’s put-back with 21.5 seconds remaining in the game brought Mariner to within 52-50.

After Jackson’s Chris Reimer — who scored all 10 of his points in the second half — sank a pair of free throws, Purnell’s offensive rebound and inside bucket with six seconds remaining trimmed the margin to 54-52.

Jackson’s Jamie Eisinger, who scored 16 of his team-leading 20 points in the first half, calmly dropped through two free throws with 2.7 seconds left to account for the final margin.

“Trying to emphasize the positive, it’s good we did show a clutch performance at the line,” Jackson coach Steve Johnson said of the Timberwolves (2-0, 3-1), who did not make a field goal in the final quarter, but converted on nine of 10 foul shots down the stretch.

“Mariner plays with great effort and intensity so there was no way they were just going to roll over and die,” Johnson said. “I knew this would be a much improved (Mariner) team and maybe one of the best in the league.

Purnell is a real piece of work … and he’s just going to get better and better.”

After leading by five at the end of the first half, Jackson built its lead to 47-32 with a 13-3 run highlighted by a pair of 3-pointer’s by Reimer and three inside buckets — one coming on a savage put-back – by Dan Wishko (11 points).

Mariner, plagued by in-and-out shooting for nearly three quarters, charged back. First, Joey Dillon (12 points) made the third of his four 3-pointers late in the third quarter.

Then, Purnell, who led Mariner with six rebounds, went to work inside in the fourth quarter as the Marauders forced Jackson turnovers and chipped away at the deficit before finally coming up short.

“I was proud of the kids and the way they fought back,” Mariner coach Dexter Griffen said. “Joey gave us a big lift with the 3’s and Purnell really lit our fire in the fourth quarter to allow us to come back.”

“When we got down by 15, I knew we would come back,” Griffen said. “We couldn’t continue to shoot that cold. Purnell and Dillon came up and gave us a spark.

“For us to be such a young team and come out and defeat (Edmonds) Woodway (49-43 last Tuesday) and then face another really good team and have a chance to win I was very proud.”

Jackson, sparked by Eisinger’s 16 points and nine from Brian Rucker, led by as many as 11 points before settling for a 29-24 halftime advantage.

Behind Eisinger and Rucker, Jackson jumped out to a quick lead that stretched to 15-6 on Rucker’s 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining in the first quarter.

Eisinger made four of his first five shots en route to a 10-point first quarter. Rucker scored Jackson’s other seven points in the quarter.

Mariner cut the gap to 17-12 on a pair of Jerrel Grant free throws with 36.4 seconds to play in the period.

Jackson scored the first six points of the second quarter and the Timberwolves’ lead stretched to 11 points.

The Marauders crept to within 25-19 on a put-back bucket by Purnell with 3:00 remaining in the half.

But, Eisinger quickly answered with a 3-pointer from the top of the circle.

On Jackson’s next possession Eisinger slashed into the lane and forced Purnell’s third foul with 1:43 to play before intermission.

With Purnell forced to the bench, Mariner went outside and a long jumper by Danny Chhan (seven points) followed by a 3-pointer from out on top by Dillon brought the Marauders to within 29-24 at the break.

Bob Mortenson writes for The Herald in Everett.

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