JERSEYVILLE — Marquette Catholic’s downfall Wednesday in the Class 3A Jersey Boys Basketball Regional had everything to do with lack of scoring.
The Explorers just couldn’t produce points.
Host Jersey stifled them, 39-26, in a regional semifinal game at Havens Gym and closed the Explorers’ season at 18-12. The fourth-seeded Panthers, now 17-14, play 18-11 Civic Memorial at 7 p.m. Friday for the regional championship.
Marquette, the No. 1 seed and defending regional champion, made only 7 of 30 shots and scored no more than eight points in any quarter.
“We struggled and couldn’t get anything going,” Marquette coach Steve Medford said of the team’s 23 percent shooting.
Top gun Shandon Boone, a 5-foot-8 junior, was limited to four points on 1-for-10 shooting. He made two free throws in the fourth quarter and recorded his lone basket with 2:10 remaining.
Medford said, “Their defense was a reason for it because they have a lot of length. And Shandon had an off night.”
Jacob Fischer’s 14 points, eight on free throws, led the Explorers. Max Goepel added eight points, including a pair of treys. Add in Boone’s points and that accounted for all of their scoring. Marquette played without 6-6 junior starter Ben Sebacher, who was fighting the flu.
The Panthers’ defense had plenty to do with it, too. Jersey needed tight guarding since the Panthers started slowly, trailing 13-7 at halftime. Jersey made only 3 of 14 shots the first half.
“We shot much better in the second half,” Jersey coach Stote Reeder said of the Panthers’ 10-for-14 shooting in a 32-point second half. “We were too passive the first half because we took only 14 shots.
“So that was the basis of our halftime speech —to get more aggressive.”
Zac Ridenhour scored all of his team-leading 10 points in the second half and Luke Shively netted all of his seven points. Jake Varble tallied seven of his nine points in the last two quarters. Teammate Jake Ridenhour, a sophomore and Zac’s younger brother, collected six points and steadied the Panthers.
“That’s the best he has played all year,” Reeder said of Jake Ridenhour. “He was aggressive and he grew up a little tonight.”
Jake Ridenhour noted, “We started pushing the ball and playing more aggressively in the second half. I think that’s the best game I have played, so far.”
A 6-0 run to start the third quarter enabled Jersey to knot things at 13-13. The Panthers led 21-18 by the end of the quarter and stretched their lead to 27-20 with 6:21 remaining.
The Explorers sliced that advantage to 29-24 with 4:48 to go, but the Panthers scored the next five points and led 34-24 with 2:25 to play. As it played out, Jersey outpointed Marquette 12-4 in the final five minutes.
“Our defense was good in the second half,” said Reeder, who had four different players defending Boone.
Medford said, “I thought we guarded them well, but we just didn’t make enough baskets. Scoring has been our Achilles Heel all year.”
He sensed that the Explorers overachieved this season. “I’m very proud of the kids. They kept playing hard and I tip my hat to them," Medford said. "We have high character kids.”
Jersey’s guys are aiming for their first regional title since 2010. Friday’s winner advances to the Carbondale Sectional and plays next Wednesday.
“We’re glad to be here,” Reeder said of playing in the championship game. “I knew the fourth-seeded team in the regional would be upset about it and I thought it would fire up that team. I’m glad we got it.”
JERSEY CLASS 3A REGIONAL
JERSEY 39, MARQUETTE CATHOLIC 26
Jersey 5 2 14 18 – 39
Marquette 7 6 5 8 – 26
Jersey (17-14) – Jake Varble 9, Jacob Witt 4, Luke Shively 7, Drake Kanallakan 3, Zac Ridenhour 10, Jake Ridenhour 6. 2FG-9 3FG-4 FT-9 PF-14
Marquette (18-12) – Boone 4, Fischer 14, Goepel 8. 2FG-5 3FG-2 FT-10 PF-16