EDWARDSVILLE – Andria Pace said the Marquette Catholic High girls’ basketball team takes plenty of pride in making its free throws.
And precise foul shooting Tuesday enabled the Explorers to shed a long losing streak.
Thanks to its accurate second-half free throw shooting, Marquette edged host Metro East Lutheran, 54-52, in a Prairie State Conference contest. The Explorers made 19 of 23 foul shots after the break and were 24-for-30 from the line for the game.
“We shoot a lot of free throws in practice and make sure we keep our percentage up,” said Pace, a 6-foot-1 junior.
She fulfilled her part of the bargain against the Knights. Pace made all 10 of her free throws and 4 of 7 field-goal attempts in scoring a game-best 18 points. “I don’t think I’ve ever made 10 free throws in a row in a game,” Pace said.
The Explorers needed every point they could get to snap a 10-game slump. Marquette, improving to 5-15 overall and 2-3 in the PSC, won for the first time since Dec. 26.
“It was very important to get a win,” Marquette first-year coach Meagan Hanlon said. “We really needed a win. It helps the self-esteem.”
Brittany Pace, a 6-1 junior and Andria’s twin, contributed 14 points to back her sister’s high-octane performance. Brittney brushed aside foul woes to net 11 of her points in a 22-point third quarter as the Explorers turned the tables on the 8-10 Knights.
“We’ve played together since the fourth grade,” Andria said of sister Brittney. “I’m usually the one getting into foul trouble.”
Metro East Lutheran, now 0-4 in the PSC, led 21-13 in the second quarter and 24-21 at half. However, Marquette went to work in the third quarter by making 6 of 13 shots and converting all 10 free throws. The Explorers then connected on 9 of 13 foul shots in the fourth quarter to secure their win.
Claire Snider’s seven points complemented the scoring of the Pace twins. All of Snider’s points came on free throws.
“We had success pressing them early in the game, then we got into foul trouble and had to get out of our press by necessity,” MELHS coach Rob Stock said. “When a team goes to the foul line as much as they did and make that many free throws, it’s going to be tough on you.”
He added, “I thought that we played pretty well on defense overall, but we didn’t do the little things in the third quarter.”
Yet the Explorers, who led 43-35 late in the third quarter, couldn’t close out the Knights until the last second. MELHS trailed 54-51 when Abby Yurchuck, the Knights’ top scorer with 17 points, went to the free throw line with 0.6 seconds remaining.
She made the first one and then tried to bounce the second one off the rim in hopes the Knights could get a last-second rebound and shot. It didn’t work and the Explorers hung on for the victory.
“It was an amazing win,” said Andria Pace, 8-for-8 from the foul line in the second half. “We worked well together.”
Hanlon said, “Andria really played well and so did Brittney, even though she got into a little foul trouble. It got a little hectic at the end, but it’s good to get a win because we needed it – big time.”
MELHS’ Morgan Schneider pitched in 15 points to back Yurchuck’s team-leading effort. Yurchuck tallied 12 of her points in the first half and Schneider logged 13 second-half points.
MARQUETTE CATHOLIC 54, METRO EAST LUTHERAN 52
Marquette 13 8 22 11 – 54
MELHS 19 5 14 14 – 52
Marquette (5-15, 2-3) – Caitlin Hanlon 7, Andria Pace 18, Claire Snider 7, Brittney Pace 14, Amber Robinson 4, Allison Hoefert 4. 2FG-15 3FG-0 FT-24 PF-21
MELHS (8-10, 0-4) – Emilee Marcuzzo 5, Karley Schley 9, Abby Yurchuck 17, Abby McMahon 3, Audrey Paitz 2, Morgan Schneider 15, Hannah Landers 1. 2FG-12 3FG-5 FT-13 PF-21