ROXANA — The Marquette Catholic Explorers were on their game Friday at Larry Milazzo Gymnasium on their way to a 63-23 over the host Roxana Shells.
Marquette raced out to a 20-4 lead after one quarter and a 38-9 lead at halftime, while only turning the ball over once in the opening half, while forcing the Shells into eight first-half turnovers. The Explorers only had three turnovers for the game.
With the win they improved to 25-3, while Roxana slipped to 12-15 on the season.
“I thought we defended really well, we played hard,” Marquette head coach Steve Medford said. “The highest compliment you can get is when you walk out of that gym and people tell you how hard your kids play. Our kids play hard and get after it and hopefully we can just build on it and get better these last few games here.”
Isaiah Ervin of the Explorers netted the first basket of the night, but Roxana quickly answered, breaking the pressuring defense with a backdoor pass to Zach Golenor for a layup to tie it at 2-2. Medford quickly called a timeout and when Marquette returned to the court it promptly went on an 18-2 run for the rest of the quarter.
“We struggled with the matchup with them defensively,” Shells’ head coach Mark Briggs said. “They’re too dangerous from 3-point land to play zone and we’re too small and they’re too athletic for us to play a man. We don’t really have any good matchups and coach Medford does a good job with picking apart some of those junk defenses.”
Point guard Sammy Green was a big part of the first-half surge for the Explorers. He scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the first half. He was also a big part of the defense.
“Our goal tonight was just to jump on them early and take them right out of the game and that’s what we did with those couple of steals right at the beginning of the game,” Green said. “It’s pretty important (to get that pressure) because once you get those easy layups it seems like everything just starts falling.”
Marquette compiled a 17-0 run that lasted nearly 5:30 between the first and second quarters. Nick Hemann capped it off with a steal and a slam at the 6:19 mark of the second quarter to give the Explorers a commanding 26-4 advantage.
While the score ended up being lopsided, Briggs said the Shells pride themselves on their effort and energy and that didn’t lack on Friday.
“They were a buzzsaw tonight and coming into the game we realized that,” Briggs said. “We tried to take some small things out of it and one of the things we talked about was playing with energy. It’s hard to play with energy when you’re not scoring on the offensive end; Marquette is so good defensively. No matter what kind of year we’re having and the players we put on the floor, coach Medford has his kids playing really well on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve got a lot of weapons.
“Our game plan coming in was try to compete, play hard and we knew Golenor would have a tough time and we hoped other guys would step up. We’ve just got to move past that and get ready for Tuesday.”
Roxana returns to South Central Conference action on the road at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Vandalia.
Marquette draws Gibault at home at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, likely a precursor for the upcoming 2A Gibault Regional title tilt. The schedule came out Friday for the 2A postseason and the Explorers are the No. 2 seed of the Carbondale Sub-Sectional B, while Gibault is the No. 3 seed. Marquette will await the winner of Dupo and Sparta in a play-in game and open the postseason at 7 p.m. on Feb. 21.
Gibault awaits the winner of East Alton-Wood River and Red Bud for its postseason game at 7 p.m. on Feb. 22. The regional championship is set for 7 p.m. on Feb. 24.
MARQUETTE 63, ROXANA 23
Explorers 20 18 16 9 — 63
Shells 4 5 7 7 — 23
Explorers (25-3) — Bryce Pettiford 2, Sammy Green 20, Nick Messinger 10, Isaiah Ervin 6, Reagan Snider 2, Chris Hartrich 2, Jake Hall 8, Nick Hemann 4, Ryan Ely 2, Kyle Buecker 3, Brady McAfee 4. 2FG — 24 3FG — 5 FT — 0 PF — 11.
Shells (12-15) — Cody McMillen 2, Zach Golenor 13, Brayden Davis 1, Mikey Ross 1, Jake Golenor 2, Logan Presley 4. 2FG — 7 3FG — 0 FT — 9 PF — 8.