Gallery: Dominant second half pushes North Marion to regional semi-final as they defeat Umatilla 74-37

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Posted February 16, 2023 | By Allen Barney
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

Sammie Yeanay scored 23 points and three more players scored in double figures to lead the North Marion Colts (21-6) to a 74-37 win over the Umatilla Bulldogs (21-6) in the Class 4A Region 2 Quarterfinal on Thursday night.

Yeanay got the Colts going early with two layups in the opening three minutes to give the Colts a 4-0 lead. North Marion’s Caleb Rollerson knocked down a three-pointer from the right corner and Jermaine Jackson added a triple from the left side to stretch the Colts lead to 10-2 with just over two minutes remaining in the opening period.

Both teams struggled to make shots in the first quarter as North Marion carried a 12-4 lead into the second quarter. Yeanay and Umatilla’s Deric Hutto traded baskets for most of the second stanza as they combined for nine points. A pair of free throws from Rollerson in the last few seconds of the first half gave North Marion a 22-11 lead at the break.

North Marion head coach Tim Yarn noted the playoff stage may have played a role in the first half struggles for his team.

“I think we were a little nervous and we just didn’t handle the moment well,” Yarn said.

Umatilla came out firing in the third quarter and went on a 14-6 run in the first five minutes of the period, which included a 10-0 run at one point. Umatilla shifted to half-court pressure defense and forced turnovers that led to easy transition points via layups from Hutto, Brian Jefferson and Mekhi Benn.

With North Marion’s lead shrinking down to three, Yarn had to find a way to turn momentum back to his side.

“It’s playoff basketball and we know basketball is a game of runs. I challenged the guys to lock back in defensively, take care of the ball and let our defense turn into offense,” Yarn said.

“He told us we had to lock in, calm things down and mentally focus. Once we figured that out, we started getting open looks and finding each other,” Yeanay said.

Rollerson ended the run with a tough layup and Yeanay followed with a smooth 11-foot jumper to bring North Marion’s lead back to seven. Following a pair of missed free throws from Elija Walton, Yeanay nabbed the rebound and sank a triple from the left side to extend the lead to 10.

Walton, Yeanay and Rollerson all scored one more time before the end of the third quarter to give North Marion a 43-28 heading into the final period.

Umatilla’s Tyler Demetski hit a pair of layups to sink the deficit to 11 but North Marion would take control from there as Jackson hit two free throws and a triple from the right side to put North Marion up by 16 with seven minutes left to go.

It was off to races for North Marion as they finished the game on a 20-5 run that was capped off on a three-pointer from senior Malachi McCray in the final minute. A few possessions prior, Walton came up with the highlight of the night on a right-handed slam dunk that brought the packed gymnasium to its’ feet.

For Umatilla head coach Pat Todd, the fantastic season coming to a bittersweet end is a tough pill to swallow but feels this is just the beginning for his program.

“This is my third year here and we have had a winning record each year and now we have made the playoffs. We have a chance to build on it and sustain it moving forward. There are a lot of great things from tonight we can build on for the future,” Todd said.

As far as what he told his players after the tough loss, Todd leaned on lessons that were learned from the loss.

“We’re always trying to teach life lesson through the game. Sometimes, those lessons can be difficult but the collective effort all year was great. Our kids played hard; we just didn’t have a great game. Life has a lot of ups and downs, if you work hard and play for each other then great things will happen,” Todd said.

Hutto and Jefferson finished with a team-high 10 points each while Benn scored nine points for Umatilla.

Yeanay had a game-high 23 points, Rollerson finished second on North Marion with 14 points. Jackson added 13 points and Walton finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

As for North Marion, their season continues as they will travel to The Villages Charter (20-8) next Tuesday at 7 p.m. for the Class 4A District 2 Semi-Final.

“I told the guys they have an opportunity to do something special for the program, the community and we have dedicated this season to Coach Collins. We want to make sure we leave it all on the line and play as hard as we can,” Yarn said.

He added: “The Villages is a great program and they have a great atmosphere. Were going to accept the challenge and be ready to rock’n’roll,” Yarn said.

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