Gerald Marlin is not new to the Neosho Holiday Classic.
The head coach of the Kansas City Ruskin Eagles knows a tough stretch of games lies ahead this week.
His knowledge of tournament strategy was evident Wednesday night during the Eagles’ 60-42 victory over McDonald County.
Using a full-court press in the first quarter, Ruskin jumped out to a 25-10 lead, comfortable enough to let Marlin put the press to rest early.
“If you noticed, we’re not as deep as we have been in the past and with the games were going to play in the next few days, I think it’s best to save our legs a little bit,” Marlin said. “We came out, pressured them, we shot the ball well early and got the lead.
“I thought early in the third quarter was a key stretch and our defense made some plays when they had to.”
Holding a 16 point lead at the half, McDonald County (2-5) scored the first five points of the second half on a Drey Fickle putback and a Tyler Sherwood 3-pointer to make it an 11 point game, 39-28.
The Mustangs had sixpossessions with the opportunity to cut the deficit to single digits. Instead, four missed shots and two turnovers kept the Eagles lead in double figures. Later in the quarter, McDonald County committed four turnovers with three of the four produced by Ruskin blocked shots.
Tayron Holden, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, and Jamari Chalmers, a 6-1 junior guard, combined to score 20 of the Eagles 25 first quarter points.
Chalmers poured in 16 of his game-high 22 points in the first half as he shot 11 of 20 from the floor in the game to go along with five assists as the Eagles improved to 4-4.
Chalmers shot 7 of 9 from the floor en route to his 16-point effort.
Fickle, the Mustangs 6-3 senior forward, scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in the first half. Sherwood, a senior guard, added 10 points and had two of the Mustangs four 3-pointers. Josh Serr finished with nine.