FREEBURG — The Marquette Catholic Explorers flew by the host Freeburg Midgets on Tuesday night in the Freeburg-Columbia Holiday Tournament.
The Explorers improved to 11-1 on the season with the 55-31 pool play win. Marquette earlier earned wins over Lebanon and Civic Memorial in the tournament to move to 3-0.
The Explorers have one more pool-play contest at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday vs. Dupo. With Tuesday's win Marquette has already secured its spot in the championship match of the tournament scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.
After battling to a grueling, double-overtime win against CM in the early afternoon, Explorer head coach Steve Medford thought his squad put together another great effort against host Freeburg to punch their ticket to the finals.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Explorer head coach Steve Medford said. “Defensively, we guarded them well and that was key for us. We got some good ball pressure on them and we took them out of some of the things they like to do. This was the second game of the day and a really tough team, I thought our kids responded well.”
The Midgets drop to 6-4 with the loss. Parker Weiss led Freeburg’s offense with nine points, as the Midgets didn’t place a player in double figures.
The Explorers wasted little time in establishing dominance. Sammy Green’s three at the 5:23 mark of the opening quarter made the score 5-1 in favor of Marquette. At the close of the first quarter, the Explorers led by 10 points with a 14-4 advantage.
Marquette capitalized from behind the arc early, as Nick Messinger also threw in a trey in the first quarter. The Explorers scored from the inside, too. Post player Jake Hall was solid in the paint and finished with 12 points.
Marquette continued to build on its lead in the second quarter, owning a 25-16 lead at halftime. The Explorers’ strong rebounding game led to second chances that were converted into points.
“It’s a big emphasis for us,” Medford said. “In the last few years, we haven’t rebounded really well. We did a good job of really crashing the boards. I thought we did a great job of that.”
The Explorers continued to control the game in the third quarter and held a commanding 49-20 lead at the end of the frame. Freeburg coach Matt Laur felt his team could have played better.
“Steve (Medford) is one of the best coaches in the state, I have the upmost respect for him,” Laur said. “But when you play the way we played tonight, no matter who you are going up against, you’re not going to win. We couldn’t take care of the ball and got away from our game plan defensively early in the game. When you turn the ball over 19 times in a game, you’re not going to win.”
A trio of Marquette players scored in double figures. In addition to Hall, Reagan Snider finished with 11 points and Isaiah Ervin led the way with 15 points.
“We have a lot of different guys who can score,” Medford said. “And it can be a different guy every night for us. I thought we did a good job of distributing the basketball tonight and I thought we hit the open man.”
Ervin said the Explorers' success is based on hard work and solid game planning.
“I work hard and listen to my coach,” he said. “I also run the plays and create open shots for myself.”