ALTON -- For the first time this season, the Marquette Catholic Explorers are over the .500 mark.
Now, they hope to stay there for the rest of the season.
The Explorers improved to 10-9 after cruising to a 53-20 win over the Roxana Shells on Thursday at home. Marquette, which won its second straight game, forced Roxana to make 25 turnovers.
“We weren’t happy about our defensive performance on Tuesday against Metro East Lutheran, so we really got after it yesterday at practice defensively,” first-year Marquette coach Lee Green said. “Our goal was to play as hard as we can defensively. Whatever happens happens on the offensive side. But our main focus was defense and rebounding.”
Roxana lost its fourth straight game and dropped to 6-14 with four regular season games remaining. The 20 points marked a season low for the Shells, who will play at Gibault on Monday.
“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and come to practice on Saturday and keep working on things that we’ve been working on since the beginning of the year,” Roxana coach Brian Diskin said. “We spend a lot of time on individual skills because we need to improve on those before we try to get into some of these other more complex teams right here. We have to keep pushing things with the way they are right now.”
Marquette reached the .500 mark seven other times this season, but could never get over the hump. A week ago, the Explorers were 8-8 before losing back-to-back games to Mater Dei and Mount Olive.
The Explorers, who were coming off a 55-48 win over Metro East Lutheran on Tuesday, raced to a 9-0 lead over the Shells and never looked back. They led 12-6 after the first quarter and 21-13 at halftime. Marquette forced Roxana to make 15 turnovers in the first half.
The Explorers outscored the Shells 19-0 in the third quarter to take a 40-13 lead. They finished two points shy of their season-high total of 55, which was accomplished three times this season, including Tuesday against Metro East Lutheran.
“They move quick and play really well as a team,” Diskin said. “The one thing after watching them against Metro the other night and again tonight was they box out really well, too.”
Marquette junior Lauren Fischer finished with a game-high 17 points, including 10 in the first half.
Fisher scored the first four points of the contest. With her team leading 14-6 early in the second quarter, the junior scored three straight baskets to increase the lead to 20-6.
“Lauren comes to practice every day and gives it 110 percent,” Green said. “I don’t have to tell her to get fired up for games. I love coaching kids like Lauren. Most of our kids are like that as well. But Fish just brings it. She’s going to run through a wall for the coaching staff. We needed her to be like that today. I couldn’t be happier with her.”
Taylor Aguirre finished with six points and eight rebounds, Madi Connors had six points and Kelsey Blasingim, Lila Snider and Peyton Kline each had five for the Explorers. A total of 11 Marquette players scored against Roxana.
Abby Palen and Sara Kreutztrager each had five points to lead the Shells.
Marquette will play Lebanon at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the Carrollton Tournament. Lebanon is the No. 1 ranked team in the Class 1A state poll.
“We look forward to that challenge,” Green said. “No. 1 or No. 100, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to come out and we’re going to compete and we’re going to play as hard as we can and whatever happens happens and we’ll go on.”
Besides the Carrollton Tournament, the Explorers have four regular season games remaining.
Green said the team’s main focus is the postseason. Marquette hasn’t won a regional title in six years.
“We didn’t talk about a number of wins at the beginning of the year,” he said. “What we talked about was getting better every single day and pushing and playing our best basketball towards the end of the season, even in regionals. Hopefully, we can try to win a regional championship. Our goal from the beginning of the year was getting better every day and playing our best basketball towards the end of the season.”
MARQUETTE 53, ROXANA 20
Shells 6 7 0 7 -- 20
Explorers 12 9 19 13 -- 53
Roxana -- Taylor Antoine 2, Abby Palen 5, Sara Kreutztrager 5, Emma Lucas 4, Lindsey Scroggins 2, Kiley Winfree 2. 2FG-8 FT-4.
Marquette -- Grace Dennis 2, Taylor Aguirre 6, Lila Snider 5, Peyton Kline 5, Lauren Fischer 17, Jordan Rook 1, Madi Connors 6, Payton Connors 2, Katie Williams 2, Kennedy Neal 2, Kelsey Blasingim 5. 2FG-19 3FG-4 FT-3.