FREEBURG — The Marquette Catholic Explorers knew they would have their hands full against the Columbia Eagles on Monday at the Freeburg-Columbia Holiday Tournament. They were right.
The Eagles defeated the Explorers 65-57 in the semifinals on Monday, improving to 8-3. The Explorers dropped to 10-3 with the loss. Columbia will now play Southwestern in the championship game at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, while Marquette battles Civic Memorial at 6:30 p.m. in the third-place contest. The Piasa Birds bested CM 53-49 in the nightcap to advance to the finals.
The Explorers never led in their loss to Columbia. The Eagles soared out to a 9-2 lead and never looked back.
“We just didn't play real well tonight. We had a stinker and it's just not the way we play basketball,” Marquette head coach Steve Medford said. “Coach (Mark) Sandstrom does a really good job. He took away a lot of the things we do and he did a really good job defensively, but I just felt like we were really slow on offense and weren't executing real well. We weren't cutting hard enough.”
Sandstrom was ecstatic with how the Eagles played defense in the game. He thought it was the type of defense that could win them a championship if they can repeat it against Southwestern.
“The first three and a half quarter our defense was outstanding,” Sandstrom said. “We knew their tendencies and our kids executed and guarded every single possession.
“We already won one tournament and we'd like to win another one and if we guard like we did tonight we've got a great chance to win, not only tomorrow, but a lot of our games the rest of the year.”
After one quarter Columbia led 13-6 and it owned a 21-15 advantage entering the locker rooms.
Fouls plagued the Explorers in the game. In the end, Marquette had committed 30 fouls, while the Eagles only had nine. It was a big disparity that allowed Columbia to step to the charity stripe a whopping 42 times, hitting 25 of them for a 59 percent free throw percentage.
It was one foul in particular right before the break that especially had Medford steaming though. At the 1:28 mark of the second quarter Medford was issued a technical foul for stepping out of the coaching box and onto the court.
“To get a technical because my foot is on the court is just uncalled for,” Medford said. “That was one of the worst calls I've ever seen. To basically sit me down for the rest of the game because I had my foot on the court was unbelievable.”
Coming out of the break Columbia continued to pour it on. The Eagles started the third quarter on an 11-4 run to extend their lead to 32-19 at the 4:36 mark. They led 39-25 entering the fourth quarter and looked to have the game well in hand, but the Explorers had other ideas.
Max Goepel and Shandon Boone went unconscious from beyond the arc in the final frame. Goepel knocked down three treys and Boone buried four in the fourth quarter and got within six points with 43.3 seconds remaining on Boone's final 3-pointer.
“Some of those were hail marys there, but those two kids are good players,” Sandstrom said of Boone and Goepel. “They made some big shots. We made just enough free throws and that's kind of been our Achilles Heel.”
Medford said the influx of 3-pointers and fouls was due to the nature of where the game was at in the fourth quarter and with a little more time maybe the Explorers could have completed their comeback.
“We kind of freelanced it there in the end because we were trying to push the ball a little bit and we prolonged the game,” Medford said. “(Shandon) hit some shots and Max hit some shots and then all the sudden it's getting to eight points, seven points, six points and we're thinking, 'OK, maybe there's a chance.' We've just got to be better and we'll be better tomorrow. I know we will.”
Boone led all scorers with 21 points, while Goepel netted 19 and Jacob Fischer scored 11 to join him in double figures.
Columbia was guided by four players in double digits. Ryan Gudeman and Jonathan Holmes both scored 19, while Drew Huebner added 12 and Korbin Farmer scored 10.
FREEBURG-COLUMBIA HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT
COLUMBIA 65, MARQUETTE 57
Columbia 13 8 18 26 — 65
Marquette 6 9 10 32 — 57
Marquette (10-3) — Shandon Boone 21, Jacob Fischer 11, Max Goepel 19, Ben Sebacher 2, Reagan Snider 4. 2FG — 11 3FG — 9 FT — 8 PF — 30
Columbia (8-3) — Drew Huebner 12, Ryan Gudeman 19, Jordan Holmes 4, Jonathan Holmes 19, Korbin Farmer 10, Zach Matthews 1. 2FG — 15 3FG — 3 FT — 25 PF — 9