After such a rocky start to the 2018-2019 season, it appears that the Marceline boys' basketball team has finally found some solid footing.
The Tigers picked up their fourth consecutive win on Tuesday night with a 64-53 victory against a Novinger team that now falls to 10-7.
The Tigers knocked down 10 of their 20 three-point attempts to render the Wildcats' crafty half-court trap nearly futile.
With its fourth consecutive victory, the Marceline side is now 4-12, and plays only conference games for the remainder of the season. After traveling to Westran on Thursday, the Tigers are scheduled to finish with five of six Lewis & Clark games at home.
Senior point guard and captain Desmond Fessler was electric on Friday night, leading his young team -- and all scorers -- with 24 points. He added five rebounds and three assists all while recording a season-low one turnover.
Fessler said that the Tigers' wheels have finally caught some traction.
"I think that the beginning of this season was partly my fault for not showing these young dudes how to play team ball," Fessler humbly acknowledged. "Against the zones we've seen, we just finally slowed down, and I got out of my head and became patient with the basketball in my hands. We're all looking up at the court off of (defensive) rebounds and finding people open. Our big guys have been doing a fabulous job of blowing off of screens and getting open for us, and that opens up shots.
"Our guys knock down shots, that was never the problem."
After the Tigers trailed 11-2 to begin the game, head coach Jordan Aulbur called a timeout with 5:08 remaining in the first quarter. Marceline scored the next 10 points of the period, and never trailed from that point onward.
Novinger's next score came at the 5:15 mark in the second -- nearly a full quarter after the Wildcats' previous bucket.
Though Novinger fought back staunchly down the stretch to end the half, the Tigers mitigated damage and went into the locker room with a 25-23 lead.
Novinger tied the game at 34-34 midway through the third, but after a pair of Fessler three-pointers extended the Tigers' lead back to six points, the Wildcats would never reach closer than that margin.
Luke Abeln continued his tremendous sophomore campaign with 15 points, eight boards, and five assists. Freshman Will Heller continued to roll with 11 points, four rebounds, and five assists.
In total, the Tigers finished with a season-high 17 assists.
Novinger's Caden Smith led his team with 14 points, and Chris Sandstrom finished with 12. Wildcat forward Heisman Wray was the Tigers' biggest adversary on the boards, handily finishing with greater than 10.
"We've practiced against that zone a lot, and we've seen opponents do similar things," Marceline head coach Jordan Aulbur said. "We shot ourselves out of it, and when you can stretch your game out, you have nights like this. We can all shoot the ball at times, and we don't want to settle for three-pointers all the time, but it was on tonight.
"We came out a little flat, and it took us a little time to settle in. After my early timeout, we rolled with it. These guys are getting their chemistry down, and they're really learning how we want to play."