The Blue Devils have been treating their fans to near-doubleheaders instead.
Marietta’s last three games have gone to triple overtime, which has created a little stress among the coaches, players and the school. And its also created a little dry humor within the administration.
“My principal told me not to worry about getting a physical this year because my heart is in good shape,” Blue Devils coach Matt Lyons said.
Over the last three games, Marietta has played 36 minutes of extra basketball, which equals an entire game plus one overtime period.
Lyons, 35, said he’s been coaching basketball for 13 years and playing since he was 4-years-old and he has never been a part of a triple-overtime affair until this month. The last time Marietta (15-3, 7-3) finished a game in regulation was Jan. 10 when it lost 54-45 to Region 4AAAAAA rival South Cobb.
The Blue Devils needed triple overtime the following day to beat non-region rival East Paulding 67-65. They lost a 56-54 triple-overtime battle to 4AAAAAA leader McEachern last Tuesday before rebounding to prevail 94-76 in three overtimes over Kennesaw Mountain on Friday.
Not only are the Blue Devils looking for a win tonight against Stephenson as part of the Hoops N Overdrive Showcase at Centennial High School, they’re also looking to get off the court in 32 minutes.
A primary cause leading to the extended games has been poor free throw shooting. The Blue Devils were 12-of-28 on the line against East Paulding. They improved to 53 percent against Kennesaw Mountain but in their McEachern loss, they shot a paltry 38 percent.
“Free throws is one reason we can’t finish games in regulation,” Lyons said. “I think we’re playing well enough to win games. The other night against McEachern, we held them to 30 percent field goal shooting on the night. We just have to find ways to put balls into the basket.”
At least they have found ways to put the ball into the basket during opportune times in their triple-overtime wins over East Paulding and Kennesaw Mountain.
Against East Paulding, Cameron Jordan rallied Marietta during an early overtime period before hitting the game-winning free throws in the waning seconds of the third.
It was a different story against Kennesaw Mountain. The Blue Devils erupted for 25 points in the final 4-minute overtime. They made eight field goals during the stretch and six free throws.
Marietta had its opportunities against McEachern, having taken a five-point lead during the first overtime, but couldn’t prevent the Indians from making the big shots.
If there is an advantage of playing these overtime games back-to-back-to-back, Lyons said he hopes it gives the Blue Devils extra endurance and (a sense of) tournament experience.
“It’s stressful and very tiring but it will pay off in the long run,” Marietta senior center Raynere Thornton said. “I see it as more conditioning.”
Lyons changed the practice schedule following the McEachern game last Tuesday by giving his team Wednesday off to recharge, which left one practice to prepare for Kennesaw Mountain on Friday.
Marietta will need all the rest it can muster this week with four games on the schedule. After playing Stephenson today, the Blue Devils will play at Hillgrove Tuesday, host Campbell on Thursday, and then travel to Pebblebrook on Saturday. The game against the Falcons is a make-up game from Jan. 7.
This also means more overtime games could not just make for a long week, but a struggle to prevent injury and exhaustion.
“We obviously want to take care of business in regulation and east the stress on our bodies and our hearts,” Lyons said. “The big thing is, our kids are resilient. They don’t stop until the buzzer goes off.”