EDWARDSVILLE - The Marquette Catholic Explorers captured the 2016 Thanksgiving Turkey Tip-off Tournament at Metro East-Lutheran High School by finishing off the Gibault Catholic Hawks 45-40 in the championship game on Saturday.
Both teams were undefeated coming into the final game. The loss is Gibault's first of the ‘16-17 season.
Explorers' junior guard Sammy Green led all players with 19 points. The Hawks' Trevor Davis led his team with 16 points.
Marquette (4-0) got out to a lead early and maintained it all night, although the game was never far out of reach for the Hawks. Only once were the Explorers able to build a 10 point lead. For most of the game the teams were only separated by eight points or less.
Marquette coach Steve Medford said that the tight competition is good for his young team.
"It's good because we needed that situation, we haven't had that since we have been (in the tournament) and we've got a lot of young kids that haven't been in that situation in varsity, so that was a really good thing for us, because you can learn a lot about your kids down the stretch," he said.
The close, tit-for-tat pace was set early in the game. Towards the end of the first quarter, Gibault's Karson Huels hit a 3-point shot to make the score 10-7, but Green took the ball straight back down to the other end of the court and hit a 3-pointer to extend the Explorers' lead to 13-7.
In the second quarter the Hawks came storming out of the gate, hitting three 3-point shots in a row to take a 16-15 lead. However, Green would get fouled on the ensuing play, and he nailed a free throw shot to tie the game back up 16-16.
Later on in the second quarter after Marquette had built up another 3-point lead, Davis picked off a pass in the Explorers' end and ran it down the court for a big dunk, which cut Marquette's lead to 19-18 going into halftime.
Hawks' head coach Dennis Reuter said that he felt his team got off to a slow start offensively, but overall he was pleased with the effort.
"We put pressure on them, we were doing what we needed to do, obviously it is not really our game to play from behind particularly well, we could have stayed a little tighter with them offensively," Rueter said.
The Gibault coach added, "We struggled early on; we didn't play real well offensively but it is really early in the year. You only have two weeks of practice to prepare, so I wasn't disappointed in that. I thought we were pretty good defensively which I was pleased with, because we haven't been in the tournament up to this point."
Marquette would come strong out of the gate in the third quarter. The Explorers' Bryce Pettiford slid a bounce pass through two Hawks' defenders to Green for the layup, which extended the Explorers' lead to 23-18.
Later, Trevor Davis would get fouled underneath the rim and hit both free throws to draw the Hawks to within 4 points with under a minute left in the third, but Green again answered with another slick pass to Isaiah Irvin for a layup, then later hit a late field goal to end the quarter with Marquette up 32-25.
In the fourth quarter, the Hawks started to put pressure on Green, often times having him double- teamed when he had possession, but Green kept composure and took the opportunity to start dishing the ball off to his teammates.
Green said after the game that he is familiar with that kind of pressure, and knows what to do when the opposition gangs up on him.
"I just expect it, so that's when I get my teammates involved," Green said.
It was the Explorers’ Reagan Snider who took over the scoring, hitting another 3 point shot midway through the quarter, and later nailing 2 free throws that put Marquette up 43-37.
The Hawks would scrounge up a few more points before it was all said and done, but it wasn't enough to beat the Explorers.
Medford praised the Hawks for their strong play.
I think Denny Reuter is one of the better coaches in the area, he is a phenomenal basketball coach and we play them every year," the Marquette coach said. "They know how to play, they play extremely hard they've got the Davis boy who is a really, really good basketball player and they surround him with guys that can make shots."
Marquette's next game is 7:30 p.m. Monday against Civic Memorial in Bethalto. The Hawks next game is at home on December 2nd against Madison.
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