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Explorers aim to finish strong again

posted Jan 9 2017 7:15 AM

by , Advantage News on January 7, 2017

Marquette bbk 1-6-16.jpeg

Seven years ago, Steve Medford was named the new boys’ basketball coach at Marquette Catholic.

Since then, the Explorers have blossomed into a successful program, winning 144 games and capturing 4 regional titles.

This year, Marquette is looking to finish with its seventh straight winning season under Medford. The Explorers are now 14-2 after beating Mount Olive 61-28 on Tuesday.

“We have a lot of good players on this team,” Medford said. “We have a lot of guys who do a lot of little things.”

Marquette ended its 2016 portion of its schedule by winning the Freeburg-Columbia Holiday Tournament on Dec. 29 at Freeburg. The Explorers finished 5-0 in the tournament, including a 52-45 victory over Columbia in the championship game.

“That’s a tough opponent,” Columbia coach Mark Sandstrom said. “We matched up well. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way. Marquette played better than us.”

Marquette won its fourth Freeburg-Columbia tournament title and its first since 2013.

“It’s a good tournament,” Medford said. “You get in a couple of games that you probably should win. We just beat three 3A teams. We played well and it’s a good tournament for us, and it prepares us for going down the stretch here.”

Medford said he hopes his team continues to be successful in 2017. The Explorers have 10 regular season games and a tournament — the Sparta Tournament on Jan. 17-21 — left on their schedule.

“It’s a young group,” the Marquette coach said. “Hopefully, we’ll get better defensively and we just keep building on everything.”

The Explorers have been getting strong efforts from two of their new players, juniors Sammy Green and Jake Hall. Green and Hall transferred from Edwardsville and Collinsville, respectively. Green is averaging 10.6 points per game and Hall is averaging 11.

“When you get a couple of transfers in like that, that’s pretty nice,” Sandstrom said.

Green earned Most Valuable Player honors in both the MELHS and the Freeburg-Columbia tournaments.

“The one thing I notice with Sammy is he’s just an excellent distributor on the basketball,” Medford said. “He knows how to play and he knows who to find. He’s very unselfish and I’m glad that he’s on my team. He’s a great player.”

Sophomore Isaiah Ervin is also enjoying a banner season. He’s the team’s leading scorer at 12.6 points per game. He earned all-tournament honors at the Freeburg-Columbia tournament after scoring 21 points in the title game against Columbia.

“Isaiah is amazing,” Medford said. “The upside potential of that kid is unreal. He’s got ice in his veins. We nicknamed him ‘Buckets’ a long time ago. He’s just an awesome basketball player.”

Seniors Bryce Pettiford, Jeremy Strebel, Nick Messinger and Brady McAfee, junior Reagan Snider and sophomore Nick Hemann round out the squad.

Marquette has won 20 or more games five times under Medford. Last year, the Explorers went 21-10 and won a Class 2A regional title.

The Explorers began their ‘16-17 season in late November with a Thanksgiving Turkey Tip-Off Classic championship at Metro East Lutheran High School, their first since 2003. They beat Gibault 45-40 in the championship game.

After suffering its first loss of the season to Civic Memorial on Nov. 29, Marquette bounced back with a four-game winning streak.

Then, the Explorers were handed their worst loss of the season on Dec. 21, when they lost to Breese Central 59-32 on the road. Their 32 points marked a season low.

Marquette advanced to the championship game of the Freeburg-Columbia Tournament by going 4-0 in pool play; one of those wins was a 61-60, double overtime victory over CM.

“Coach Medford had talked about them being physically tough and mentally tough,” Sandstrom said. “All week, they really came back and responded because I know he was upset after the Central game that they weren’t tough enough. We have found out that they are tough enough.”

The Explorers improved to 3-0 in Prairie State Conference play with their win over Mount Olive on Tuesday. They also own wins over Nokomis and MELHS in conference play.

Marquette’s next contest is vs. Bunker Hill at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 10 in another PSC showdown.

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