ALTON — Short-handed and battling from behind, the Marquette Catholic Explorers mounted a second-half comeback to defeat East Alton-Wood River 44-37 at home Friday.
The victory improved the Explorers to 14-9 overall and 5-0 in the Prairie State Conference. It snapped a five-game skid for Marquette. The loss for the Oilers, dropped them to 8-14 and 1-2 in the PSC.
The Explorers won Friday despite the absence of starters Ben Sebacher and Max Goepel to injury and the fact they trailed 27-17 at half and 35-31 after three quarters.
“For the last five or six games we just haven't shot the ball well,” Marquette head coach Steve Medford said. “In the Jersey Tournament we were 48 for 158, or 29 percent and tonight we were 29 percent from the field again and we were 15 of 28 from the free throw line. Those are things we haven't been doing well and we were without two starters tonight without Sebacher and Max Goepel. That's tough when you don't have those two guys. I thought our energy was much better in the second half and I thought we guarded well and we didn't give up a field goal in the fourth quarter, so that was tough.”
The second half surge really spurred the Explorers. They outscored EA-WR 27-10 in the second half and contained the Oilers to just two Dillon Buck free throws in the fourth quarter.
Marquette sharp-shooting junior Shandon Boone produced 15 of his game-high 18 points in the second half too, which helped. Boone had eight points in the crucial fourth quarter.
“I know I've got to hit shots for us to win,” Boone said. “If I don't do it, we lose, so I just do what I can to help us win.”
For EA-WR head coach Kyle Duncan it was disappointing to finish with the loss after leading most of the way and seeing a solid effort from his squad. He thought the defensive work on Boone broke down a little bit in the second half and that hurt the Oilers.
“He's tough,” Duncan said of Boone. “I thought we did a great job in the first half and in the second half he started moving around a little more. He's really quick and our kids had trouble keeping up with him. We didn't do our job switching screens with him. He's a fun player to watch.
“Plus (Mike) Stimac and (Blake) Marks weren't on their tip-top game tonight. Usually we have one or the other that's pretty hot for us and tonight we kind of struggled offensively.”
The Oilers made shots early. After falling behind 8-3 in the first quarter, Blake Marks hit a pair of treys to make it 9-8 in favor of EA-WR.
After a Jacob Fischer basket for Marquette made it 10-9, the Oilers answered with six straight points to close the opening frame with a 15-10 advantage.
In the second quarter, EA-WR enjoyed an 8-1 run to close out the half. Buck started the spurt with a pair of field goals, while Mike Stimac closed it out with a pair of his own. The Oilers led 27-17 at halftime.
“We were missing our two better players on the team and we just had to regroup with the players we had and learn to play with each other,” Boone said. “We had to play defense and limit (Marks and Stimac) because they really lit us up in the first half.”
The Explorers came out of the locker room with a new found energy. They went on a 12-2 run to find themselves in a 29-29 tie with EA-WR at the 3:11 mark of the third quarter. Boone scored the final seven points of the outburst with a 3-pointer and a pair of 2-point field goals.
But when Boone was whistled for an offensive charge for his fourth foul and chased to the bench, the Oilers made their last big charge.
Stimac scored four points and Nic Daily added two, as EA-WR forged ahead 35-29. Fischer scored a late bucket for Marquette to dwindle it to 35-31 after three.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Explorers though. Boone had a basket and two free throws to knot it at 35-35 and Reagan Snider's field goal with 4:41 to go left Marquette ahead for good at 36-35. A nifty skip pass through traffic by Trey Aguirre to Boone for an easy layup made it 38-35.
Duncan was happy with the effort from the Oilers on Friday, especially defensively. He thinks some of the late woes can be attributed to lack of winning.
“Our kids played hard, they competed, I think it just comes down to the fact that we haven't really won a lot of games the last couple of years and that's what it comes down to, knowing how to win,” Duncan said. “The one thing I can say about them is they never quit. They always keep hustling and trying hard. The effort was pretty great.”
Boone praised senior Danny Holtz for his effort on the Marquette side. Holtz finished with five points, but played with a lot of energy in a spot start due to the injuries.
“Danny should start playing more because of his energy and his effort,” Boone said. “He's just a good player.”
Medford added, “The first thing I did was apologize to Danny Holtz. I said, 'Danny I'm sorry I missed the boat on you.' Danny's just a high character kid and a kid that I love and he played very, very well. His presence on the boards was big for us tonight.”
Fischer joined Boone in double-digit scoring for the Explorers with 14 points. Stimac paced the Oilers with 15, while Marks scored nine, all in the first half.
MARQUETTE 44, EA-WR 37
EA-WR 15 12 8 2 — 37
Marquette 10 7 14 13 — 44
MARQUETTE (14-9, 5-0) — Trey Aguirre 1, Shandon Boone 18, Danny Holtz 5, Reagan Snider 3, Jacob Fischer 14, Nick Messinger 1. 2FG — 9 3FG — 3 FT — 13 PF — 15
EA-WR (8-14, 1-2) — Blake Marks 9, Zach Butkovich 3, Dillon Buck 6, Mike Stimac 15, Nic Daily 2, Joel Biesk 2. 2FG — 10 3FG — 4 FT — 5 PF — 23