Erie’s Naji Marshall didn’t doubt that his team would get the job done. After all, his BayHawks were 6-1, had beaten the previously-undefeated NBA G League Ignite by 40, and followed that up with two close wins over Lakeland and Memphis.
So when it came time for the 7-0 Delaware Blue Coats, it was just business as usual.
“Just sticking with it,” Marshall said. “Playing within our system, keep doing what we do best and that’s playing defense and not getting ahead of ourselves. Not getting locked into one-on-one basketball. Continuing to play team basketball and team defense and just cutting into the lead as much as we can each time. Eventually, it was our time to take over the game, which we did.”
Erie held Delaware to just 47 second-half points on the way to a 115-110 win in a game that saw 16 lead changes, six of which came in the final 8:42 of the contest. Marshall hit four three-pointers in the fourth quarter, and his second gave the BayHawks a 94-90 lead, the team’s largest since being up 9-5 in the first.
“Just being patient and letting the game come to me,” Marshall said. “It starts with the energy off of my defense and letting that carry through the game. Like I said, just being patient and taking open shots.”
Marshall’s 16 points came in clutch for a BayHawks team that was without it’s two leading scorers in Jordan Bell (17.6 PPG) and Jalen Adams (16.1 PPG). They were able to fend off a 32-point showing from Blue Coats guard Michael Frazier II, and got star big man Paul Reed to foul out after an offensive charge call with Erie down 97-96 with 4:42 left in the game.
“We’ve been locked in on the defensive end,” Marshall said. “We take personnel very seriously, film very seriously. So just being that way and everybody being locked in and knowing their role, we can guard anybody.”
“Delaware is a great team,” said Erie head coach Ryan Pannone. “I love the way they play, their style of play, the way they are coached. For us to come out and take away such a great team’s strengths says a lot about our defense.”
Cassius Winston scored 19 points and cashed in on 5-10 from deep, while Jarrod Uthoff continued his hot streak with 21 points, as he’s now averaging 20.5 PTS in the last four games.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) February 22, 2021
For Erie, this fast start isn’t anything spectacular to the players. Being top in the league in assists per-game and field goal percentage, while being within the top five in steals, blocks, and scoring per-game, is what Marshall says comes from “a bunch of guys on the team wanting to be great.”
“No matter the circumstances, you still have to do what you got to do at a professional level and be a professional every day,” Marshall said. “Just staying locked in, doing what we can to help the team.”
Erie goes up against Fort Wayne on Tuesday night.
“I think [our confidence] is unbelievable,” Marshall said. “Being 7-1, our confidence level is through the roof right now, but we just have to stick with it.”
UPDATE: The BayHawks defeated the Mad Ants on Tuesday, 106-103, to move to 8-1 on the season.