After being away for awhile playing in another league, the Marshall Statesmen made a strong return to the Liberty District this winter by earning the number-two seed, then finishing second in the league’s boys basketball tournament.
Marshall, which won only four games last season, lost to the top-seeded Washington-Liberty Generals, 55-46, in a physical Feb. 18 high-school championship game at W-L. The Statesmen (17-5) are the only district team that defeated Washington-Liberty so far this season, that coming during the regular season.
The teams split two regular-season games.
“The championship game was a physical matchup and kind of like a rock fight,” Marshall coach Jerry Lin said.
Marshall last won a district tourney in 2019 when it captured the National District crown. It last won the Liberty tourney in 2013, then switched leagues for a few seasons, finally returning to the Liberty for the current campaign to regularly face some of its familiar community rivals like Langley and McLean.
This season, Marshall was 2-1 in the tourney, defeating No. 7 seed Herndon in the first round, 73-62, then third-seed Wakefield, 56-34, in the semifinals.
In the final against W-L, Marshall led 12-11 at the end of the seesaw first quarter. Washington-Liberty took the lead for good at 14-12 earlier in the second period, and led 39-34 entering the fourth period.
The Statesmen drew as close as 43-42 with 3:45 left in the game on a couple of free throws, then were hurt by three straight turnovers. The Generals responded to take a 50-42 lead, and won from there.
“I thought in the second quarter we kind of struggled, because they were taking us out of what we wanted to do with the ball on offense,” Lin said. “We had to adjust. Then in the fourth, we had those turnovers and missed our window a little bit.”
Adi Hrnjez scored 16 points for Marshall, blocked multiple shots and was a force on the boards. Eli Nassif had nine, Scinto Connor eight, Matthew Lenert six and Jason Penn five.
In the win over Herndon, Nassif had 13 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals, then had five points and as many rebounds against Wakefield. Lenert had eight points, five rebounds and five assists against Herndon, then made four three-pointers and scored 19 against Wakefield to go with six rebounds and five steals.
Gowtar Kommi scored 13 and had five rebounds against Herndon. Hrnjez scored 10 to go with five rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals in the win over Wakefield.
Also against Wakefield, Connor scored nine and Penn had six plus three steals.
Hrnjez and Lenert were chosen first-team all-district, Kommi and Scinto made second, and Nassif honorable mention. Lenert later was chosen first-team all-region, with Hrnjez making second team.
NOTE: Marshall’s overall district record this season, including the tournament, was 11-4, losing to Washington-Liberty twice. Lin said the team enjoyed being back in the Liberty District and were kind of the unknown. “We only won four games last season. So in the district, I think we crashed the party a little.”