EDWARDSVILLE — The Marquette Catholic Explorers couldn't quite find the formula to beat Gibault's size on Friday in the semifinals of the Metro East Lutheran Turkey Tip-Off Classic.
The Hawks (3-0) shaded the Explorers 49-45 and advanced to face host MELHS (3-0) in the title tilt of the tournament at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The Knights bested the Southwestern Piasa Birds 42-41 on a buzzer-beater by Jason Johnson in the other semifinal Friday.
Marquette (2-1) and Southwestern (2-1) square off for third at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“It really just came down to offensive rebounds,” said Explorers' head coach Steve Medford. “We guarded them well enough and we did a really good job defensively, but when you give up 13 offensive rebounds that really hurt us. As a whole I thought we played pretty well. Offensively we did some nice things, got some other guys involved. (Shandon) Boone was off a little bit tonight, but overall I thought we did a pretty good job.”
Gibault boasts a pair of 6-foot-5 players and a 6-3 player in its starting lineup, so head coach Dennis Rueter expected to beat the Explorers on the offensive glass. The Hawks were paced offensively by 6-5 senior Brian Deterding with 20 points and 6-3 junior Trevor Davis with 17 points in the win.
“They didn't have a good matchup for Davis and they didn't have a great matchup for (6-5 Colin) Kessler,” Rueter said. “That was really difficult for them. I thought we did a really good job on Boone and that really helped our situation.”
Boone, a 5-8 senior guard for Marquette, was limited to 9 points, but fellow senior Ben Sebacher, 6-5, played terrific, leading the Explorers with 15 points. Sebacher really sparked Marquette in the third quarter, netting 8 of his points in the frame. It helped lead the Explorers to a 37-36 edge entering the final frame.
“Sebacher was really good,” Rueter said. “He was the toughest kid on the floor; it was between Davis or him. We had trouble with him and they had trouble with Davis, but we just made a couple more plays than them.”
Medford agreed with Rueter's assessment of his big man. He thinks Sebacher has played a fine tournament to this point.
“He did a pretty good job and I think he's had a pretty good tournament,” Medford said. “We need that out of him. We have to have some paint production out of him. He could have done a better job rebounding tonight, but overall I thought he did pretty good.”
Davis was a handful for the Explorers though, scoring 11 of his 17 points in the second half. Maybe his biggest play was skying for a block on Marquette's Nick Messinger on a 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the game.
“He's awfully athletic,” Rueter said of Davis. “That was good, but we had a number of big plays and we really defended well coming down the stretch.”
The fourth quarter shooting was the most glaring difference, as the Hawks were 5 of 7 from the field in the final stanza, while the Explorers were just 3 of 11.
Medford thought those stats from the do or die frame were a big difference.
“It was back and forth and we had the looks that we wanted but we just missed them,” Medford said. “That happens, but I thought we shot the ball pretty well overall until that point. They do a good job. Gibault is coached well, they run things well, they defend well and when you do that you've got a good program.”
The night started with buckets from Sebacher and Boone to put Marquette in front 4-0. The Explorers led 5-2 with 4:15 left in the opening frame after Sebacher hit the backend of 2 free throws, but the Hawks responded with a 7-0 spurt to go up 9-5. It was highlighted by a steal and dunk by Davis and a 3-pointer by Jacob Rueter.
Gibault owned a 13-11 at the close of the opening frame. The two teams traded blows in the second quarter. Boone tied it at 22-22 late in the opening half, but a basket by Deterding gave the Hawks a slight 24-22 advantage entering the break.
The Explorers utilized a 7-0 spree in the third quarter to forge in front 35-30 with 2:11 to play, their biggest lead of the game. Sebacher spurred the run with a score and then diving to save an out-of-bounds ball and pushing it to Messinger for 3-pointer from the corner. A pair of free throws by Boone closed out the run.
Reagan Snider put Marquette in front 37-34 with 12.3 seconds to go in the third, but Davis nailed a shot with 0.7 seconds left to dwindle the Explorers' lead to 37-36 as time expired on the quarter.
Marquette's last lead came after a Messinger 3-pointer with 6:28 to play in the game made it 40-38. The Explorers were within a point at 46-45 with 1:25 remaining, but a Deterding score and a Davis free throw sealed the deal.
Medford said Marquette will now prepare for the Piasa Birds and he expects another tough contest.
“Tomorrow night you've got a completely different team,” he said. “Southwestern is a little smaller, they're quicker, they can spread the floor on you because they have four or five people that can shoot the basketball, so it's just going to be a matter of us guarding well. Hopefully we can bounce back tomorrow and I think we will.”
GIBAULT 49, MARQUETTE 45
Explorers 11 11 15 8 — 45
Hawks 13 11 12 13 — 49
MARQUETTE (2-1) — Trey Aguirre 2, Shandon Boone 9, Nick Messinger 6, Reagan Snider 11, Ben Sebacher 15, Trevon Collins 2.
GIBAULT (3-0) — Brian Deterding 20, Colin Kesler 2, Jacob Rueter 4, Trevor Davis 17, Karson Huels 3.