EDWARDSVILLE — The Marquette Catholic Explorers kicked off the '15-16 season in style on Tuesday at the Metro East Lutheran Turkey Tip-Off Tournament, blasting New Athens 58-20.
The Explorers, the top seed in Pool B, received big play seniors Shandon Boone and Ben Sebacher in Tuesday's win. Boone, a 5-foot-8 guard, poured in a game-high 23 points, while the 6-5 Sebacher dominated in the paint with 17 points.
After the Yellow Jackets closed within 11-7 with 1:12 to play in the first quarter, Marquette exploded to outscore them 21-4 the rest of the first half, taking a comfortable 32-11 lead into the break and not looking back. The Explorers forced 20 turnovers overall in the game.
“We preach the defensive end a lot and that's something we pride ourself on and we want to make sure we guard people really well,” Marquette head coach Steve Medford said. “I think it gives us a chance every single night when we do that.”
But with the turnovers and energy on defense, Medford thought the execution could have even been better. New Athens only shot 23 percent (6 of 26) on the night and its fumbling offense fed into the final outcome as much as the Marquette defense.
“I feel like we got lost a little bit,” he said. “Defensively we had some flaws. They didn't shoot the ball particularly well and we held them to 20 points, but we got lost on a lot of stuff tonight, which is really kind of disappointing, but overall it's something we focused on and I thought we did a pretty good job.”
Sebacher thought for an opening game it was a fine performance by the Explorers, but definitely saw the possibilities for improvement.
“I'd probably give us a B,” Sebacher said. “Our offense looked good, our defense could have been better, but toward the second half it got better.”
Sebacher continuously found himself around the basket with favorable matchups, leading to a slew of easy layups and put backs off the glass. He'd like to be more confident and aggressive around the bucket this season.
“I need to rebound better and my inside presence on defense could be better,” Sebacher said. “I was just in the right spot (tonight) and got open.”
And while Sebacher showed a commanding presence in the paint, Boone was dynamic with the ball in his hands on Tuesday, including shooting 4 of 7 from beyond the 3-point arc. The shifty senior guard said he's worked to evolve his game from just shooting in the offseason, hoping to become a complete offensive package.
“Once I make my shot it opens up the drive,” Boone said. “I was working on that in the offseason and I'm going to try and do it during this season.”
Medford said Boone's prowess with the basketball is fun to watch.
“When you get Shandon going like that on the outside he's the best guard in the area,” Medford said. “He's a great basketball player. He's a phenomenal shooter, he's good going to the basket and he does a lot of things for us.”
Medford pointed out that Boone's presence opened up the opportunities in the paint for Sebacher, who he thought executed very well.
“It created some opportunities down low for Ben and Ben did a really good job of making some buckets tonight. I thought Ben was a big difference staying on the boards,” said Medford. “It's something I've preached to him for four years and he's finally doing it.”
Theo Dudeck staked New Athens to a 2-0 lead to start the game. He finished with a team-high 11 points.
But Sebacher hit the front end of two free throws to kick start a 9-0 run for the Explorers. Boone made 3-2 when he scored a layup off of a nifty bounce pass from fellow senior Trey Aguirre.
Marquette led 14-7 at the close of the opening frame when Boone nailed his second trey of the quarter. That bucket began a 12-0 spurt to propel the Explorers in front 23-7 and on their way to a 32-11 advantage heading into the locker room.
Boone had 19 first-half points, while Sebacher entered the break with 9 points.
Maybe the best part for Medford was the mammoth lead allowed him to get his bench extended minutes. Overall, nine Marquette players chipped in for the offense, including his two freshmen Chris Hartrich and Nick Hemann.
“It's the first game of the year and it's great for our kids to get a feel,” he said. “We got everybody in tonight, including some young guys. We had two freshmen out there at the same time. These are guys who are possibly going to be here next year. I thought they did a really good job. I was really impressed with Chris Hartrich and what he did. He's a good little guard.”
Boone said securing a 38-point win in the season opener was just a confidence booster for the entire Marquette lineup.
“The younger guys got their confidence, we got our confidence and from this point forward we should be good,” Boone said. “Everybody's fine, we shouldn't be nervous anymore. Everybody got to play so we should be fine.”
The Explorers wrap up pool play at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday against Cleveland. Bracketed play in the Turkey Tip-Off begins on Friday.
MELHS TURKEY TIP-OFF TOURNAMENT
MARQUETTE 58, NEW ATHENS 20
New Athens 7 4 5 4 — 20
Marquette 14 18 19 7 — 58
MARQUETTE (1-0) — Trey Aguirre 1, Shandon Boone 23, Reagan Snider 3, Ben Sebacher 17, Nick Messinger 2, Chris Hartrich 4, Bryce Pettiford 4, Trevon Collins 2, Nick Hemann 2. 2FG-19 3FG-5 FT-5.
NEW ATHENS (0-2) — Lucas Doiron 1, Noel Ivester 3, Nathan Curry 1, Justin Ruff 4, Theo Dudeck 11. 2FG-4 3FG-2 FT-6.