Blackmon Jr. scored 37 points against Kokomo in that Dec. 20 matchup, leading Marion to a 75-51 victory over the Kats, a game where the hosts committed 24 turnovers.
“We definitely struggled in that game, and all credit goes to Marion,” McCauley said. “They really exposed us in that game and played very well. We’ve tried to improve, and I think we have. Our guys have done a great job of making progress and growth throughout the season. I’ve liked their focused heading in on what we can do to be at our best this week.”
Kokomo (14-7) struggled to a 2-5 mark in its first seven games, but has rebounded nicely since, entering the postseason having won 12 of 14.
Senior guard Tayler Persons returned for the final nine games of the regular season after missing the first 12 as he recovered from a torn ACL. The Northern Kentucky recruit has averaged 18.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists since his return, helping Kokomo win eight of nine entering the postseason.
Persons did not play in the first clash with Marion, but saw the game from the bench as a spectator. He’s eager to make a difference in the rematch.
“I’m just looking forward to bringing my leadership on the floor,” he said. “I felt like the first time I watched us play Marion, we didn’t have any leadership out there, and that’s why we turned the ball over a lot. We didn’t have anyone out there to settle them down. That’s my biggest thing to give my teammates [tonight].”
Senior post Erik Bowen adds 14.6 points and 8.1 boards for the Kats. Senior point guard Mykal Cox adds 11.2 points and 5.3 assists, while senior wing Demarius Warren chips in with 11 ppg.
TWIN LAKES SECTIONAL
NORTHWESTERN (10-10) vs. WESTERN (14-6)
The Howard County rivals meet for a third time this season with the most at stake in the semifinal of the Class 3A sectional. Western won a 57-48 decision on Dec. 6 and claimed a 67-54 victory on Jan. 17 in the Howard County Tournament.