Updated Fri, Nov 15, 2013 6:33 pm
The Pioneers won’t have to travel far for their first game of the season as they host Ohio Christian on Friday in the second game of the Marietta Shrine Tournament.
Marietta will be looking to continue its run of good form as it closed the 2012-13 season with a three-game winning streak at Ban Johnson Arena. The Trailblazers are on a hot streak of their own, ending their regular season with a seven-game winning streak leading to a 22-8 record.
In his past six seasons as Marietta’s head coach, Jon VanderWal has taken four Shrine Tournament titles and looks to gain his fifth as he has five returning lettermen and one returning starter, senior Tyler Hammond. Hammond, a three-time All-Ohio Athletic Conference point guard, started 27 of the 28 games last season, averaging 11.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, three assists and 1.4 steals per game.
The Pios will look for Hammond to show leadership during the season as well as junior post player Garrett Stephenson who averaged 7.6 points and 3.9 rebounds.
“We are excited for the season to start,” VanderWal said. “Ohio Christian is a very challenging opponent who already has five games under their belt. They are a very athletic team and we will need to perform at a high level to be successful.”
Ohio Christian is an unimpressive 2-3 on the season after winning the National Christian College Athletic Association championship last season and only losing eight games in the 2012-13 campaign.
The Trailblazers possess many talented players including junior guard Wesley Russell, who is averaging 18.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season. Freshman forward J.J. Smith averages 13.2 points and seven rebounds and senior guard Ernie McCoy is cashing in 11.6 points per game.
The guard play of both teams will be a talking point on the night as Hammond’s athleticism and quick defense face off against the high-scoring and shot-happy play of Russell.
Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. following the opening game of the tournament that is between Earlham and Piedmont.