Photo by Caleb Motsinger
Jacob Fischer drives to the basket in the first quarter of the Explorers' 64-43 victory over Roxana at home. Fischer had four points all in the games first quarter.
In the four years Deion Lavender has played basketball at Marquette Catholic (17-6) his team hasn’t lost a home game.
And with the Roxana Shells (17-10) coming into Alton Friday night on a six-game win streak, the pressure was on. So Lavender did what he does best, and he scored 32 points to lead his team to victory 64-43.
Last Saturday Roxana beat Nashville at the Nashville Shootout, turning around to beat Southwestern at home Tuesday night. Senior forward Charlie Sheets had 14 points and 13 rebounds against the Piasa Birds earlier in the week and the Shells have been playing their best basketball of the season.
But Marquette coach Steve Medford knew what his team had to do to win; and they executed.
“All year long we have been struggling defensively with man-to-man pressure,” Medford said. “But tonight I thought we did a really good job on pressuring their guards and making it difficult for them to throw it into the post.”
And Roxana coach Mark Briggs couldn’t agree more.
“We shot the ball well early in the game, but what made the difference in the long term was the pressure Marquette put on our guards,” Briggs said. “The pressure on the guards made it hard for them to get the ball down to Sheets; and we run a lot of our plays through our big men in the paint.”
Roxana had 19 turnovers on the night, with Sheets, who averages 17 points per game, held to only 15.
“Sheets loves to go hard to his right shoulder and score,” Medford said. “We knew coming in he was going to be a big issue for us.”
Roxana busted out of their shells early, with senior Matt Hartnett scoring 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter alone. However, their hot shooting didn’t last into the second quarter.
And after a steal at mid-court and an easy layup by Marquette’s Jordan Harris, the Explorers took the lead for the first time in the game, keeping it throughout.
“Lavender is a great player, and when our defense keys in on him it allows other guys on his team to score points,” Briggs added. “You can’t just stop Lavender and beat these guys; they have other guys on the court who can step up when needed.”
Sophomore Ben Sebacher followed Lavender in scoring with 12, Harris had eight and Jacob Fischer had four.
“Ben Sebacher is really coming along for us; he’s tough,” Medford said. “Fischer is a warrior too. He plays hard and he does everything right. But the best part is that they will both be back for us next year.”
Hartnett led the Shells in scoring with 18, with sophomore Trace Gentry throwing in six.
"This team still has a chance to get to 20 wins," Medford said. "With everything that has gone on, I think that would be a pretty darn good season."