Garcia helps fuel Marietta's run

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Luis Garcia scored 19 points vs. John Carroll and 24 vs. Eastern Connecticut State.
Marietta athletics photo by Mitch Casey Photography

It wasn’t easy for Marietta standout Luis Garcia to go the Division III route to play college basketball.

Not only are there no D-III schools in his home state of Florida, but his mind was set on playing at a higher level.

“I was stuck in that mindset that I was too good to play Division III,” Garcia said. “I thought about going Division II and staying closer to home, but at the end of the day, I wanted to be happy. I found a school where I could be part of a good team and be happy.”

Garcia is indeed happy playing for the Pioneers, who are unbeaten through 12 games. The junior wing is the team’s leading scorer, clicking for 13.2 points per game. Garcia has drilled 23 3-pointers and is 41-of-43 from the free-throw line.

“I can’t take all of the credit for my success,” Garcia said. “Our big guys attract attention and that leaves me open for shots. The coaches also do a great job of putting me in a position to be successful. I really have the easiest job. I just have to shoot the ball.”

But Garcia has become more than just a scorer this season. He’s also made strides on the defensive end, racking up 15 steals, one more than he had all of last season.

“He’s really stepped up,” Marietta coach Jon VanderWal said. “Luis is a lot more balanced as a player now and I think he’s become a better player because of his improvements on defense.”

Garcia said he has embraced the role of being a strong defensive player, which has helped his offensive game as well.

“There are games where you can miss a few shots and feel like you are having a bad game, but even if the shots aren’t falling, you can always play hard on defense,” Garcia said. “If you do that, the offense eventually falls into place.”

The thing about this Marietta team is that Garcia doesn’t have to be the go-to guy every night. He plays on a team where four other players are averaging at least nine points per game, including three others scoring 10 or more per outing.

Garrett Stephenson is averaging 12.1 points per game while Eddy Grenert is clicking for 10.5. Keith Richardson (10.0) and RaNeal Ewing (9.3) have been steady contributors as well for a Marietta team averaging 80.2 points per outing.

“We have a balanced attack, and our depth has been a strength for us,” VanderWal said. “There isn’t one player you can really focus on. I also think we have a good defensive team. Everyone has bought in and is playing well.”

Garcia is just happy to be a part of it. Since arriving on campus, he’s learned to adapt to the speed of the game at the college level. He’s also learned to deal with life outside of Florida.

“It was a culture shock coming to Ohio,” Garcia said. “I’m talking to you on the phone right now and its 80 degrees in Miami. In Ohio, it’s probably snowing. But I’ve learned to deal with it.”

Garcia will soon be back in Ohio and ready to help the Pioneers continue their quest for an Ohio Athletic Conference championship. Marietta is in first place with a 5-0 mark.

“We’ve gotten off to a great start,” VanderWal said. “We have five road conference games left on our schedule and how we play in those games will be crucial to our success. We have a good team but we have to stay humble and hungry.”

Fantastic five

Mary Hardin-Baylor pushed its win streak to five games on Saturday with an 87-61 win over LeTourneau. Justin Gammill paved the way with 14 points as the Crusaders improved to 7-3 overall and 4-1 in the American Southwest Conference.

Gammill has had a solid season for the Crusaders, averaging 10.2 points per outing. He is shooting 52.1 percent from the floor on the year and has knocked down 13 3-pointers. Saturday’s win marked the first time that Gammill has led the Crusaders in scoring this year.

The sophomore wing has come a long way since last season when he scored only 14 points and played in a total of 15 games.

Another win for Lee

Denison head coach Sara Lee won the 399th game of her coaching career on Saturday as Big Red rolled to a 74-39 North Coast Athletic Conference win over Wooster.

Lee is in her 26th season at Denison, with Big Red winning more than 200 games since the 2003-04 campaign.

The Big Red are in the midst of another good year. It has won its last three games and is now 7-6 overall and 3-1 in the conference.

Kellie Arter paved the way for the Big Red, scoring 17 points as she knocked down five treys. Arter has been instrumental to Denison’s success, especially as of late, shooting 61 percent from the field over the last three games. She is averaging 17 points per outing during the stretch.

On the season, Arter is averaging 13.5 points per game and has drilled 34 3-pointers.

Special day for Sewanee

Sewanee wasn’t intimidated by taking on nationally ranked Centre on Sunday and ended up stunning the Colonels  53-51 in the Southern Athletic Association opener for both teams.

The Tigers picked up one of their biggest wins in program history as they beat Centre for only the second time since 2005. It was their first win over the Colonels since 2012.

Jorden Williams paved the way with 14 points as Sewanee won for the fourth time in its last five games, improving to 6-4 overall. Marcellus Caldwell scored a season-high 12 points.

Williams is the leading scorer for the Tigers, pouring in 19 points per outing, while Caldwell is averaging 8.3 points per game. The Tigers average 62.1 points per outing and allow 61.7. Sewanee has given up 51 points or less in its last two games and has held two opponents to under 50 points this year.

Bearcats continue streak

St. Vincent stretched its win streak to four games with a 100-57 win over Westminster (Pa.) on Saturday in Presidents’ Athletic Conference play.

The Bearcats got the job done behind the stellar play of Taylor Mathers, who scored 23 points in just 18 minutes of work. She connected on 10 of her 13 shots from the field as she helped the Bearcats improve to 10-1 overall and to 4-0 in the PAC.

Mathers has led Saint Vincent in scoring in three consecutive games and a total of nine times overall this season. The graduate student is averaging 19.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in 11 games this season.

Mathers is part of a high-scoring offense. The Bearcats average 85.2 points per outing and have scored 80 or more six times. In three of those games, Saint Vincent has scored at least 93 and have come within a point of the century mark twice.

Tough Bulldogs

Texas Lutheran displayed its toughness in an 81-76 win come-from-behind win over Southwestern on Saturday.

The Bulldogs trailed by nine points with 5:59 to play before fighting back to earn a win in their Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference opener. Texas Lutheran, which closed the game on a 22-8 run, is 6-6 overall.

Texas Lutheran won for the fourth time in its last five games and has won six of eight since starting the season with four consecutive losses.

The Bulldogs earned their latest win thanks in part to the play of Donte McGee, who came through with his third double-double of the year. McGee scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. McGee is averaging 8.3 points per game and is grabbing 7.8 rebounds per game.

Wait is over

The Emory and Henry women won their first game over Virginia Wesleyan since 2009 on Saturday, topping the Marlins 75-62. The Wasps have won four consecutive games and have matched their win total from a season ago. Emory & Henry is now 6-5 overall and 2-1 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.

The Wasps shot 45.5 percent from the field and Megan Jacoby paved the way with 14 points. She also grabbed eight rebounds and tallied five assists and six steals to lead the way.

Jacoby is averaging 8.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game for the Wasps, who are averaging 73.6 points per outing and allowing 65.2.

Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Findlay, Ohio. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending the last 10 at The Courier in Findlay. The highlight of his career was covering the University of Findlay men's basketball team's perfect 36-0 run to an NCAA Division II national championship in 2009. During his career, has covered all three levels of the NCAA tourney and has done freelance work for newspapers and web sites. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois and lives in Ottawa with his wife and daughter.