ROXANA — The Marquette Catholic Explorers had a happy bus ride home after Thursday's non-conference contest against the Roxana Shells at Larry Milazzo Gymnasium in Roxana.
The Explorers defeated the Shells 61-50. The contest was a low-scoring affair in the beginning. Andria Pace's free throws at the 6:43 mark in the first quarter made the score 2-0 Marquette and Caitlyn Hanlon's 3-pointer at the 5:43 mark extended the lead to five points.
Roxana first scored at the 3:37 mark with Domenique McDonald's basket to to cut the Explorer lead to 5-2. Hanlon's trey at the 2:14 mark then ignited an 8-2 run and Marquette led 15-8 at the end of the first quarter.
The Explorers (8-12) displayed a fluid offense throughout the key first quarter run and into the second quarter. They passed the ball around the perimeter until opportunities on the inside became available.
The Shells dropped to 9-12 with the loss.
“We forced it in to them too much,” Marquette coach Meagan Hanlon said. “Caitlyn Hanlon had some threes and Lila Snider had some threes. I still feel we forced it in to them too much. We moved the ball around the ball and got it to them (post-players).”
The Explorers had three players in double figures: Andria Pace netted 18, Caitlyn Hanlon scored 16 and Lila Snider punched in 14.
“Andria Pace and Caitlyn Hanlon have been our two leading scorers this year,” coach Hanlon said. “When they're on, we're on.”
Pace also talked about ball control.
“We got a lot of open shots when we worked the ball around,” Andria Pace said. “Coach Hanlon kept telling us to work the ball around and that's how you beat a zone, quick passes around the perimeter and then you get your post open. That's where I got a lot of my open shots from.”
The Explorers own a size advantage, as Andria Pace and Brittany Pace both stand 6-foot-1. The Shells have no players above 6-0. Coach Hanlon mentioned the advantage on executing her team's zone defense.
“Our best defense is a zone,” she said. “It's what we usually play.”
Roxana coach Tammy Talbert also talked about the size match up.
“We can't match up against a taller lineup,” she said. “We just don't have that size. At times we got some good stops, but we didn't capitalize on some of the turnovers we forced. We were making a lot of unforced errors, also. As far as getting the offensive set, it was tough. “
The Explorers led 27-17 at halftime. The first two quarters made the difference and they never lost the lead in the second half.
During the second half, the Shells' offense showed some life. Abby Palen, who led Roxana's offense with 18 points, had treys at the 3:27 and 2:05 marks in the third quarter. The second three cut the Explorer lead to seven points (39-31).
“Those were completely uncontested,” coach Hanlon said on the threes. “I kept telling the girls to get out there, but its hard to shift back and forth when two girls have played the entire game, they're tired. We went man-to-man on those shooters and they didn't get much after that.”
Talbert complimented her team's effort.
“This is the best effort I've seen all year long in working collectively as a group,” she said. “Abby Palen was shooting the ball well tonight. I thought we were seeing our open players better. Cassie Vanzo was doing a good job defensively in getting a few stops. I felt we made way too many turnovers at the beginning of the game.”
Marquette led 45-36 at the end of the third quarter. Roxana played a close game in the fourth quarter, as the Explorers only outscored the Shells 16-14.