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Marshall survives Crane’s fourth-quarter surge in heated regional final

Marshall's Edmond Bryant (3) beats Crane's Robert Hobbs (23) to the basket, Friday 02-22-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

A rivalry game is always intense. A Marshall-Crane rivalry game is even more so. A Marshall-Crane rivalry game in a Class 2A regional final, with both teams’ seasons on the line, took the intensity to another level.

On a Friday night full of controversies — three technical fouls on Marshall and a long stoppage to determine the correct score among them — the host Commandos held off Crane 65-56 to advance to the sectional semifinals.

“It feels good,” said Brian Brooks, who led Marshall (14-12) with 18 points and 11 rebounds. “We practiced and worked hard for it. Everything we put together we just used in the last minutes.”

Marshall led the whole way and held a 48-39 advantage after three periods, but the Cougars (10-15) — led by Robert Hobbs (18 points) and Jimarius Sneed (16 points, 10 rebounds) — battled back in the final frame.

The Commandos’ lead was down to five when Brooks made a layup with 5:05 left that somehow didn’t make it onto the scoreboard. The lead was then down to two with 3:14 left when a timeout prompted what became a very lengthy review of the scoring error.

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The excessive delay for the score correction, although the correction itself was certainly justified, seemingly gave Marshall much-needed time to regroup. “(My team) asked me what’s wrong and I said, ‘Nothing’s wrong. Your job is just to go get ready to play,’” Marshall coach Henry Cotton said.

Crane coach Alonzo Crowder, very heated afterwards at what he described as “piss-poor” officiating, saw it differently.

“The whole debacle with the score change took the momentum away from the game,” Crowder said. “It’s stuff like that makes it tough to play in rivalry games like this, because the rival school’s always looking for an advantage. We were on a run, we were playing well, and then they pull that.”

Crowder made an effort to add that he respected that Marshall had won the game, but said he viewed the delay — as well as what he viewed to be several non-calls on fouls against Hobbs — to be indicative of the Cougars’ season.

“It’s been (this way) all year: people don’t want Crane to be good,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is we are good. So they do any and everything to take games away from us, like they took that game away from us.”

Crowder’s team did still benefit at times from Marshall’s lack of discipline. The Commandos were thrice whistled for technical fouls; Edmond Bryant committed two of them and was thus ejected in the third quarter, ending prematurely his very good outing (5-of-5 for 11 points). And Crane took 28 free throws to Marshall’s mere nine, though they made only 19 of them.

The Commandos ultimately advanced face to Leo (22-8) on the same court next Tuesday.

“When it comes down to the playoffs, everybody starts over at 0-0,” Cotton said. “We played (Crane) earlier in the year, we beat them by three, so we knew it was going to be a dogfight.”