By Greg Shashack, The Telegraph
Marquette Catholic coach Steve Medford is the 2016 Telegraph Small-Schools Boys Basketball Coach of the Year. The Explorers’ all-time winningest coach led Marquette to a 21-10 record and a Class 2A regional championship.
GODFREY – Steve Medford recalls the latest gathering of Marquette Catholic boys basketball coaches to assess the Explorers’ talent and schedule and answer the same annual question.
What can we get to?
“I don’t think any of us went to 21-10 and thought we’d win a regional championship,” Medford said.
But that is exactly where the Explorers went, exceeding expectations to make Medford the 2016 Telegraph Small-Schools Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
“We had some good players, but we also had a lot of kids that kind of bought into everything that we wanted to get done,” Medford said. “We had a good staff, I thought, that put a lot of time and effort into it. Overall, I was really satisfied.”
Before Medford’s arrival at Marquette in 2010 after interning under coach Lee Bennett at Alton High, the No. 1 slot for wins by an Explorers coach was shared by Mike Waldo and John Ducey with 87. Medford took that title in his fourth season and just capped his sixth year at Marquette with a 135-49 record.
The 2015-16 season produced a fifth 20-win season and a fourth regional title in Medford’s six years.
“I’m very happy with what we’ve got right now,” Medford said of the state of Explorers basketball. “I’ll say this about the Marquette kids, we get a lot of high character kids, kids who are willing to try to do anything and everything there is to win basketball games. That’s the part that’s a lot of fun. It’s fun going in the gym every night knowing you’ve got good kids to coach.
“I’m really proud of where the program is. I still think we can go a lot further. And I think we will go a lot further because we’ve got kids willing to put in the work and effort to make it happen.”
The Explorers graduated two-time player of the year Shandon Boone along with senior starters Trey Aguirre and Ben Sebacher. They led a team that won a Prairie State Conference championship and posted a 4-5 record against Class 3A-4A foes.
“Those kids,” Medford said of his team, “they played extremely hard, they bought in at the defensive end, really bought into that concept of defending and rebounding.”
Marquette defeated Roxana in overtime to win the Dupo Class 2A Regional. The Explorers then battled, but fell to Breese Central 38-34 in the semifinals of the Pinckneyville Sectional. Central went on to throttle Nashville (73-59), Teutopolis (67-52) and St. Joseph-Ogden (60-48) before losing to Chicago Hales Franciscan (71-58) in the state championship game.
“They’ve been awfully tough to beat,” Medford said of Central. “They’ve got a good program, they play extremely hard and they know how to do it. Hopefully, we can get to the point where we can get past those guys.”
That hurdle was removed for 2017 with Breese Central bumping up to Class 3A. The Explorers return starters in senior Reagan Snider and junior Nick Messinger and welcome a pair of likely starters in tranfers Sammy Green, a junior guard from Edwardsville, and 6-6 junior Jake Hall from Collinsville. Toss in promising returning sophs Isaiah Ervin, Chris Hartrich and Nick Hemann, and next season’s top seven looks to include one senior, three juniors and three sophomores.
“We’ve got a young group of kids and I think we’re going to be really talented the next couple years,” Medford said.