By Pedro Velazco
LAFAYETTE — The scoreboard at the end of the first game of the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Boys Basketball Sectional on Tuesday night showed Kokomo notching a 30-point victory over Marion.
It could have shown almost any margin, whatever Kokomo wanted.
The No. 8-ranked Wildkats did as they pleased against their arch rivals, notching an 86-56 victory while playing subs liberally in the closing quarter. Kokomo did the heavy lifting in an explosive first half that saw the Kats take a 45-14 lead into halftime.
“We wanted to come out to a fast start,” Kokomo’s LaBradford Sebree said. “We knew last time we played them we came out with a fast start, but we let up at half and ended up winning by two. We just wanted to impress our will.”
Sebree was the first catalyst. He had a busy first quarter with seven points, three steals and two assists as the Kats raced to a 19-6 lead. Elsewhere, several players had big flurries that helped put the Giants down. Center Kylee Beheler had six points, all off offensive rebounds, in the opening frame.
“We anticipated that Kokomo might come out and give us that halfcourt pressure because we showed some weakness against that last Friday against [Fort Wayne] Snider,” Marion coach Billy Shepherd said. “We knew we had to limit turnovers and I think we had eight or nine that first quarter. It kind of set the tone for the game.
“Kokomo got great shots inside, they got second shots. We didn’t do a real good job. We weren’t aggressive, we were real passive defensively and when we’re that way, we become passive offensively, and I thought that was the difference.”
In the second quarter, Erik Bowen hit a jumper from his pet spot in the high post and finished with eight points that frame, and Brad Dockemeyer came off the bench to swish two 3-pointers. His second trey gave the Kats a 31-point lead at the break.
“I think by about halftime, they started slinging their heads, but even then, that’s what happened last time. We wanted to keep our foot on the pedal,” Sebree said.
Kokomo pushed the lead to 37 points, 68-31, on a steal and layup from Tayler Persons deep in the third quarter and coasted from there on out with heavy minutes from reserves.
“I really liked our intensity level, I liked our focus,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said. “I thought we did a good job of contesting their shots and blocking out and rebounding, and then I liked how we attacked appropriately versus their defense. There wasn’t too much to dislike, that’s for sure. I thought we got off to a good start and then really kept up that same intensity in the second quarter — got even better. Marion, they’re a tough team, they’ve won three of the last four, they have momentum and I thought we took away that momentum they had coming into the sectionals.”
Kokomo takes a 20-2 record into the semifinal against Lafayette Jeff Friday at 6 p.m. Marion finishes the season 9-13. The Giants recently dismissed two players from the squad and suspended two others.
Persons led the Kats with 16 points. Sebree had 15 points and six assists, Dockemeyer scored 11, Hakim Burnett and Bowen had 10 each, and Beheler ended up with eight points and a game-high seven rebounds. Mykal Cox added six points and five assists.
McCauley noted boosts from players up and down the lineup, and a final spark from senior Jesse Broomfield. He played for the first time since suffering an ACL tear last season. He had a rebound and an assist.
Kokomo has posted three straight 20-win seasons for the first time since the 1994-95, 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons.
• Kokomo now owns a 106-79 advantage in its all-time series with Marion. The Tribune had an incorrect all-time record in Tuesday’s preview. It did not include a pair of Marion forfeits in the 1932-33 season.
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