ROXANA — Max Goepel did his part to help out the Marquette Catholic Explorers on Friday in Roxana.
The 6-foot-4 senior netted a game-high 20 points and the Explorers cruised past the Shells 47-25. With the win, Marquette improved to 17-9 on the season, while Roxana slipped to 12-15.
“Max is capable,” Marquette head coach Steve Medford said. “He's been a very unselfish player in our program and I'm just extremely happy he came out tonight and hit some shots. We'd like to invite teams to do the box-and-1 (defense) against us and Max took advantage of that tonight and hit some shots and gives him more confidence going forward to knock down shots for us.”
For Roxana head coach Mark Briggs, his plan to box-and-1 Shandon Boone, the leading scorer for the Explorers, worked to an extent. Boone was held to five points on Friday, but by focusing on him it allowed Goepel to take over. Briggs said he knew that was a possibility.
“When you're taking away something, you know you're giving away something and those gimmicks are always good when kids like Goepel don't have games like that,” Briggs said. “It looks good in the book when you're holding Boone to that, but the outcome was we scored 22 points until we subbed and got three points out of our JV. They locked us down defensively.”
It started out in a seesaw battle, tied at 8-8 early. Reagan Snider had a traditional 3-point play for Marquette and Trace Gentry answered with the same for the Shells to tie it 3-3. Goepel then knocked down a trey and Zachary Golenor hit one of his own to knot it at 6-6. Buckets from Jacob Fischer of the Explorers and Gentry made it 8-8, but that's when the momentum shifted.
Marquette closed the first quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 14-8 lead and never looked back.
Goepel said it was just a matter of upping the defensive intensity.
“We were struggling a little bit defensively early,” said Goepel. “We knew their sets, but we had trouble stopping them. Then we turned it on a little bit.”
Roxana's Randy Skiff buried a 3-pointer to open the second quarter and get it to 14-11. But the Explorers led the Shells 9-5 in a sluggish second quarter to enter the break with a comfortable 23-13 lead. Boone sank his lone field goal on the night with a trey at the 2:08 mark to push Marquette's lead to double figures. His only other scores came on two third-quarter free throws.
“Shandon wasn't hitting them like he usually does and it's good to have someone else help him out a little bit,” Goepel said of his offensive breakout.
A traditional 3-point play by Skiff cut it to 23-16 to open the second half, but Marquette then raced out on a 10-0 spurt to push it to 33-16 and led 39-19 as the third quarter came to a close.
It was more Marquette in the fourth quarter with the Explorers winning the final frame 8-6 on the way to the victory.
Roxana was led by Gentry and Skiff, who each scored eight points, but both struggled at times throughout the game. Gentry scored five of his eight points in the first quarter and didn't score again until hitting a trey in the fourth quarter. Skiff was only 1 of 5 from the charity stripe.
The seedings for the Class 2A Southwestern Regional were released on Friday with the Shells getting the No. 2 seed. Briggs was happy with the seed. Recent offensive struggles are as much a part of a tough schedule as anything else according to Roxana's coach.
Host Southwestern received the No. 1 seed at the regional, with Gillespie at No. 3, East Alton-Wood River is No. 4, Carlinville is No. 5 and Dupo got No. 6.
“I think through frustration and constant struggles you beat your head against the wall,” Briggs said. “I think our kids are learning to fight through adversity and that's what it comes down to. A couple kids just aren't used to that kind of stuff. Our schedule has been tough. That's not an excuse, but things haven't been easy on Trace at times, but he's playing through a lot of adversity. Golenor is trying to get on track too, he's got three points in two games and he's our second leading scorer.
“Randy at times has been our most valuable player. Everybody knows Trace is our best basketball player, but Skiff's our warrior. He does so many great things for us.”
The Explorers won't find out where they are seeded in the Class 3A Jersey Regional for another week. All Medford knows is wins are crucial for seedings this time of year, so he wants Marquette to stay on a roll. Highland, Civic Memorial, Jersey and Triad join them at the regional.
“It's going to be tight,” Medford said. “One to four could be all over the place and our schedule doesn't get any easier. We get Gibault on Tuesday night and we turn around and go to Breese Central Friday night and then we go to Freeburg. The kids believe we can win them all and I think we can win them all and the ultimate goal is to win a regional and that's what we practiced for all year and I think we're capable of doing it.”
MARQUETTE 47, ROXANA 25
Marquette 14 9 16 8 — 47
Roxana 8 5 6 6 — 25
MARQUETTE (17-9) — Trey Aguirre 1, Shandon Boone 5, Reagan Snider 9, Jacob Fischer 4, Max Goepel 20, Ben Sebacher 6, Harvey Howell 2. 2FG — 15 3FG — 3 FT — 8 PF — 11
ROXANA (12-15) — Zachary Golenor 3, Trace Gentry 8, Randy Skiff 8, Blake Vandiver 3, Cody McMillen 1, Shawn Porter 2. 2FG — 5 3FG — 4 FT — 3 PF — 12