PASADENA — When the three-pointers fell, the Marshall Fundamental boys’ basketball team rose.
Unfortunately for the host Eagles, other than a solid third quarter, their three-point prowess lacked in Tuesday afternoon’s Delphic League opener as Marshall dropped a frustrating contest, 54-41, to Milken Community.
“This is disappointing because the expectations were to win,” Eagles Coach John Burch said. “I expected today’s game to be a challenge, but not this difficult and we’re going to have to improve.”
Marshall (6-5 overall, 0-1 in league) and Milken (9-3, 1-0) were two of the league’s three teams to possess a winning record heading into Tuesday along with Crossroads (6-5).
The Wildcats held a tenuous one-point lead to open the fourth, which was extended to two after a free throw from Ari Bender with 6:33 left in the fourth.
Then, in an ironic twist, the Wildcats opened the game over a 53-second span with three triples from senior forward Zach Miller (game-high 16 points), each of which was assisted by Andrew Gharibian.
The final of those three-pointers came with 5:01 left in the fourth and capped a 9-2 run in which the Wildcats opened up a 44-36 advantage.
Marshall attempted to respond the best way it could, with the final of five made three-pointers from junior guard John Sagherian, who led the Eagles with 15 points.
The basket, which came at the 4:18 mark in the fourth, brought Marshall within 44-39.
Yet, Milken stormed back with a layup from Gharibian on its next possession, which wasn’t countered by Marshall until a layup from Jerry Enciso (eight points) with 2:24 left that brought the score within 46-41.
While the Wildcats missed a field goal attempt on their next possession, Miller picked up an offensive rebound that eventually led to a foul against Gharibian, who sank two free throws with 1:39 that put the visitors ahead, 48-41, with 1:39 remaining.
Over the next four possessions, Marshall attempted and missed a three-point try, which were rebounded and converted into made free throws for Milken, which pushed a seven-point advantage to 13.
For the contest, Marshall finished 10 for 33 (30%) from behind the arc.
“I have to credit Milken. They ran a 1-3-1 zone and we had open looks from outside and we took them,” Burch said. “Those were the easiest looks and we didn’t work to get the ball inside.”
The turning point of the contest proved bittersweet for Marshall.
The Eagles trailed, 24-14, but opened the third quarter with a 19-4 run fueled by five three-pointers and capped by a triple from senior wingman Davin Hampton with 1:11 left in the quarter that gave Marshall its biggest advantage of 33-28.
Milken, though, fought back with two free throws from Miller and scored the final six points of quarter, including on a steal from Gharibian that led to a layup from Bender as time expired, and finished ahead at the end of three, 34-33.
“We didn’t want to hang we these guys, we wanted to beat them,” Sagherian said. “That’s what’s frustrating and disappointing. We had a chance to beat them and we missed.”