DUPO — The Marquette Catholic Explorers opened the playoffs in grand style on Tuesday.
Marquette blasted the host Dupo Tigers 94-41 in the Class 2A Dupo Regional semifinals to earn a berth in the title game at 7 p.m. Friday. The Explorers will play the winner of the contest between Roxana and Red Bud to be played at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Dupo.
Marquette improved to 20-9 with the victory, while the Tigers concluded their season at 8-20.
Explorer head coach Steve Medford was pleased to reach the 20-win plateau on Tuesday. It was a mark he wondered if his team would be able to reach.
“It’s a big key because I’ll be honest with you, I’m not trying to sugarcoat it, but I looked at our schedule this year and I thought we could win anywhere between eight and 20 games,” Medford said. “I didn’t know. With the schedule we have and how hard it is and on top of that, you look at the teams we’ve played and we lost two guys coming back, I didn’t know where we’d stand. I’m really excited about 20 wins. I want 21 real bad, but I’m really happy about the program and where it is.”
Marquette got to showcase the whole program vs. Dupo. Medford dipped deep into his bench, playing a slew of freshmen in the lopsided win and there were plenty of contributors.
All-in-all, 10 Explorers scored on Tuesday, led by senior Ben Sebacher's 20 points. Sebacher was one of four players in double figures for Marquette. Senior Shandon Boone netted 11 and junior Nick Messinger tossed in 10 from the starting lineup, while freshmen Chris Hartrich, 12, and Isaiah Ervin, 15, played very well off the bench. Ervin nailed five treys in the fourth quarter.
“You guys are going to be talking about that kid, I'm telling you,” Medford said of Ervin. “When he's a junior and a senior. You'll be talking about him when he's a sophomore, too.”
Senior guard Trey Aguirre said it was just fun to get to come in and see the bench guys contribute and play the minutes they did on Tuesday, especially Ervin.
“It's pretty fun to see someone shoot the ball like that,” Aguirre said. “You usually don't see that in high school basketball, so it's a fun thing to watch.”
Medford was glad to see Sebacher have a solid game. He scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half and was relegated to the bench with the other starters for much of the second half. He was 9 of 12 from the field and found some easy buckets in the paint against the Tigers.
“He missed some shots, but I think it’s good he got going a little bit,” Medford said. “Sometimes Ben is a big confidence kid. If he can get a few to fall early, he missed a few in the beginning, but I think he was a little uptight. He put a few up there, he got going a little bit.
“Ben’s a big key for us and he's going to be a big key for us on Friday night. We've got to have him against Roxana or Red Bud, whoever it may be. As far as we go, Ben's going to be a big key to that so we're looking for some big things out of him.”
Marquette surged quickly against Dupo, sprinting out to a 12-0 lead to start the game. Sebacher netted 8 of his points in the opening scoring spree and the Explorers never looked back.
They led 20-7 at the end of the first quarter and ballooned it to 40-17 at halftime behind 13-0 and 8-0 runs in the second quarter. Marquette then led 71-29 after three quarters. The Explorers outscored the Tigers 54-24 in the second half.
They shot 38 of 65 from the field for 58 percent and 13 of 25 for 52 percent from 3-point land.
Now they await their opponent on Friday. Whether it's Roxana or Red Bud, Aguirre thinks opponents through the regular season like Breese Central, Pinckneyville, Quincy Notre Dame, Gibault and others have them battle tested for the playoffs.
“I feel like coach has really prepared us for the upcoming games and we just have to practice well, play hard and play some defense,” Aguirre said.
And if Friday's opponent happens to be the Shells, Medford said they will know them well. Marquette and Roxana just played on Feb. 12 at MCHS and the Explorers prevailed 49-43.
“We know Roxana well,” Medford said. “I feel very confident in what they're going to do and how we're going to attack them, but in the same token Red Bud is an awfully good team and they could come in here and beat (the Shells), so we've got to focus on those guys as well. We put together both reports and we've been working on both teams and we hope to come out victorious on Friday night.”
Anything less would be a disappointment to Aguirre and his teammates.
“Right now we expect to win and we expect — myself and my teammates — to give all we've got and hopefully that will give us that win on Friday.”
CLASS 2A DUPO REGIONAL
MARQUETTE 94, DUPO 41
Explorers 20 20 31 23 — 94
Tigers 7 10 12 12 — 41
Marquette (20-9) — Trey Aguirre 2, Shandon Boone 11, Nick Messinger 10, Reagan Snider 8, Ben Sebacher 20, Chris Hartrich 12, Tim Derrington 4, Nick Hemann 6, Duncan McLain 6, Isaiah Ervin 15. 2FG — 25 3FG — 13 FT — 5 PF — 16.
Dupo (8-20) — Collin Roth 2, Michael Overbay 11, Tony Cozart 6, Cody Richardson 8, Austin Francis 8, Jarrett Dixon 4, Kolbie Allen 2. 2FG — 8 3FG — 6 FT — 6 PF — 13.