EDWARDSVILLE — They saved their best for last.
The Marquette Catholic High Explorers stifled Southwestern, 57-29, Saturday night in the third place game of 35th annual Metro East Lutheran Thanksgiving Turkey Tip-Off Classic.
Marquette finished 3-1 in the week-long affair. Southwestern closed at 3-2.
“Team-wise, it was our best game,” said Explorers’ senior guard Shandon Boone. He did his best, scoring 18 points, including 12 the first half. Teammate Reagan Snider punched in 17 points.
Elsewhere, Roxana captured the Silver bracket of the week-long tournament by shading Bunker Hill, 52-51, for seventh place. The Shells improved to 4-1, thanks to Trace Gentry’s 3-point buzzer beater.
East Alton-Wood River wound up 2-3 after bowing to Christ Our Rock Lutheran of Centralia, 57-45 for Bronze bracket honors. The Oilers finished in 14th place.
Host MELHS edged Waterloo Gibault, 53-52, in overtime for the Gold bracket championship in front of a standing room-only crowd at Thomas Hooks Gym. It was the Knights' first title of their own tourney since 2010. They are 4-0.
The all-tournament team included: MVP Jason Johnson and Teddy Fifer of Metro East Lutheran, Trevor Davis and Jacob Rueter of Gibault, Boone and Ben Sebacher of Marquette, Trace Gentry of Roxana, Stormmy Coffman of Bunker Hill, Nick Price of Gillespie, plus Collin Baumgartner and Justin Bailey of Southwestern.
EXPLORERS SMOTHER PIASA BIRDS — While Boone and Snider guided Marquette’s steady offense, it was the hounding defense that had coach Steve Medford beaming.
“We guarded well in this game and I think we did that for the whole tournament,” he said. “That’s the key to our success and we want to keep building on it.”
The Explorers limited the Piasa Birds to 9-for-38 shooting and held them to 19 points over the final three quarters. Southwestern made only 5 of 18 shots the first half and trailed 27-15. Boone’s 12 points powered Marquette.
“They were playing different defenses on Shandon and we adjusted to that,” Medford said. “He has a knack for knowing what to do and we put him in the right situation.”
Boone pointed out, “I’m getting used to seeing different defenses and learning how to attack them.”
Snider tallied 11 of his points in the second half. He sank four treys, one more than Boone.
“Reagan is a good shooter and a good player,” Medford said. “He’s a gym rat.”
Baumgartner, a 6-foot-6 junior and Bailey, a 5-10 sophomore, both scored 7 points, tops for the Piasa Birds.
“We did a good job on both of them,” Medford said. “Our No. 1 focus was on Bailey because he can flat shoot it. We wanted to shut him down because when he gets going, he’s hard to stop.”
SHELLS SURVIVE MINUTEMEN BARRAGE — Bunker Hill connected on 14 treys, including 10 in the second half, to push Roxana to the brink of a stinging setback.
However, Gentry’s trey from the corner just before the final buzzer enabled the Shells to survive.
“We went with a set play,” Briggs said of the game winner. “We had run that play about five times in the game and had success with it each time.”
He added, “We felt like we had to go for the win and we wanted to put the ball in our best player’s hands. And Trace is the best shooter I’ve ever had.”
Gentry tallied 18 points on 6 treys, and his last one was the most memorable shot of all.
“It’s the biggest shot I’ve ever hit,” he said. “I felt good when I shot and I thought it was going in the basket. I had a good tournament and it was a lot of fun.”
Teammates Cody McMillen (14 points) and Zach Golenor (11 points) contributed to the cause. Golenor connected on a trio of treys as the Shells made 9 shots from 3-point land.
They led 31-18 in the third quarter, only to see the 3-2 Minutemen storm back with a salvo of 3-pointers. Coffman, a 6-1 junior, led the charge with 6 treys and a game-best 23 points. He notched four of them in the second half when Bunker Hill registered 30 of its 33 points on shots from beyond the arc. The other three points came on free throws.
“It was tough because they (Minutemen) hit some pretty good shots,” Gentry said. “We have to keep playing hard and play good defense.”
OILERS FALL IN FINAL — EA-WR had trouble getting its offense going in the Oilers’ loss to Christ Our Rock. They made only 1 of their first 22 shots and 3 of 27 the opening half to trail 29-16.
The Oilers picked up their shooting touch in the second half, but still finished with 14-for-52 shooting, or 26 percent. Blake Marks led them with 19 points, eight of them coming on free throws. Zane Butkovich chipped in with nine points on three treys.
“Blake had a great tournament and he’s doing a lot of little things for us. His legs were fatigued in the last game,” Oilers’ coach Kyle Duncan said of the 6-1 senior guard. “We struggled shooting, but I thought our younger kids picked it up near the end of the game.”
The Silver Stallions owned a 49-29 lead early in the fourth quarter, yet the Oilers mounted a comeback and made a game of it. EA-WR made 8 of 14 shots in the final quarter after going 6-for-38 through three quarters.
Duncan said, “I thought that overall it was a pretty good tournament for us because we won a couple of games and played 10-to-12 guys. We’re still looking for guys to fill roles for us.”
He expects to see gradual improvement as the season progresses.
“Blake is our only guy with varsity experience, so we are a young team,” Duncan said. “At one time, we had four sophomores on the court. We need to improve defensively and keep a positive attitude.”