By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — There was an old-school feel Friday night at the Tepee.
Nearly 2,000 fans filled the gym at Anderson High School, bringing the arena close to its capacity. On the court were a pair of the oldest and most bitter rivals in the North Central Conference.
And the game bore the scars of that history, with Anderson and Marion combining for 47 fouls and 61 free-throw attempts.
In the end, a familiar name stole the show.
Following in the footsteps of his father's all-star career, James Blackmon Jr. poured in a game-high 42 points and the visiting Giants ran away with a 93-74 victory.
James Blackmon Sr., now the head coach at his alma mater, scored a combined 102 points in his final two games against the Indians — including a Final Four loss — and was glad to see the family tradition continue.
"That's one of the stats I can still hold over his head," the elder Blackmon said, referencing his superior scoring prowess against the Tribe. "Because he's pretty much crushed all my other stats."
Blackmon Jr. scored 28 points in the second half, including a dunk in the final 30 seconds, and played all 32 minutes. But two of the IU-bound Mr. Basketball candidate's lesser known teammates played a critical role in the decision.
Jordan Smith came off the bench to score 10 of his 11 points in the second quarter, and Alec Turner tallied 11 of his 19 points in the third period. Not coincidentally, the Giants (9-3, 3-0 NCC) took control of the game during those two quarters.
Anderson (6-7, 1-2) led 17-12 early in the second quarter before Smith helped ignite a 9-0 run that put Marion ahead for good. The Indians fought back within 26-24 midway through the period before the Giants put together a 12-2 run to end the half.
Turner knocked down a 3-pointer to end the run, foreshadowing his third-quarter heroics.
"James is one of the best players in the state, if not the best," Anderson coach Joe Nadaline said. "He's going to get his (points). We let Turner get 19 points and Smith get 10 in the first half. That's inexcusable."
Things got worse for the Indians before they briefly got better.
Marion began the second half on a 10-2 run to extend its overall streak to 22-4 and claim a 48-28 lead with 5:31 to play in the third quarter. Anderson whittled the deficit to 52-41 before Blackmon exerted his dominance.
The 6-foot-4 senior shot 8-for-13 in the second half, doubling his first-half scoring total with 14 points in the third quarter. He finished the game 12-for-21 overall, including 4-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Blackmon also shot 14-of-15 from the free-throw line, leading an effort that saw the Giants finish 26-for-31 as a team. Anderson wasn't far behind at 22-for-30, led by sophomore Thomas Wells at 9-for-10.
The Indians responded to the loud, enthusiastic crowd by taking a 14-12 lead after the first quarter. But early foul trouble helped slow Anderson's offense.
Sophomore center Kobe Clay picked up two quick personal fouls, including a technical just 1:57 into the game. He and junior Cameron Miles combined to score 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the game had long since been decided.
"We showed we can score inside," Nadaline said. "But it's hard to score inside when your big guys are sitting on the bench."
Senior Kenya Wilkerson continued his outstanding season with a team-high 24 points, including 14 in the second half. He shot 7-for-14 from the field and 8-for-9 from the free-throw line.
Wells and senior Grant Bennett added 11 points each.
The second half was a particularly wild affair with the teams combining for 103 points. Anderson must now regroup with a rescheduled contest against Lafayette Jeff next on the docket Saturday night.
"I thought we played hard, and we played with a lot of intensity," Nadaline said. "We need to come out Saturday with the same energy. That would show me we're learning."