ALTON — The Marquette Catholic girls' basketball team welcomed the Roxana Shells as they celebrated their Senior Night on Thursday. The Shells cut the celebration short with a 52-40 victory over the Explorers.
The Shells improved their record to 13-9, while the Explorers sank to 5-16.
Marquette took off to a quick 9-6 lead over the visiting Shells in the first five minutes of action, but the Shells recovered and took control of the offense. Roxana scored 10 unanswered points, led by senior Erica Sheets' six points to end the first quarter with a 16-9 lead.
The Shells' defense kicked into gear keeping the Explorers to eight points in the second quarter. Freshman Hannah Rexford added her contribution for the Shells, nailing three jump shots for six points in the second frame. Marquette entered the locker room down 26-17 to the Shells.
"Roxana is a great team," Marquette head coach Meagan Hanlon said. "Sheraka is a very talented player. I think we held her to seven points in the first half and we made the mistake of backing off of her and she nailed us with it. Our game plan tonight was trying to control Sheraka — period."
The third quarter consisted of one step forward and two steps back for the Explorers. As Marquette nailed a 2-point field goal, the Shells would score a 3-pointer to extend the lead.
The Explorers battled with everyone contributing on the offensive and coming up with 14 points in the combined effort in the quarter. Sheraka took ownership of the third quarter though, racking up nine points, including back-to-back 3-point shots.
Shells' freshman Sara Kreutztrager added a trey to the mix and sank a free throw to help her team's cause. As the Shells totaled 17 points to round out the third quarter, Roxana led Marquette 43-31.
"I'm glad Sheraka got hot in the second half," Roxana head coach Tammy Talbert said. "It's nice to have a player like Maddy on your team because at any given point she can get the hot hand and her timing was perfect tonight.
“I am pleased with the way we played overall. I think Erica is doing a better job off the dribble, she's getting a little more confidence in her skills and she's finding the basket. I feel she's getting better as the season is going along."
Sheraka stayed hot for the Shells putting up seven of Roxana's nine points in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Abby Palen came into the game late in the quarter and added two free throws to round it out for the Shells.
Marquette matched Roxana's points, adding nine, lead by junior Andria Pace with three free throws, but the effort fell short. The Shells slowed the pace for the last seconds to end the game with the win.
With Sheraka's career success, and the addition of an average of roughly 20 points per game, she's inching closer and closer to the Roxana career scoring record.
"She's often doubled up on," Talbert said. "We try to set as many screens as we can. We've moved the high post person up high, maybe that will alleviate some of the problems low for us. We try to create as much space as possible. We tell the girls all the time, if you are a threat when you get the ball in your hands offensively and you look to the basket, the other team will have to think about coming out and guarding you. With Sheraka doubled up on, it's opening opportunities for other players like Sheets and Rexford to contribute."
Sheraka holds back the pressure as the career scoring record comes nearer and enjoys the challenge with the support of her teammates.
"I don't really think about it when I'm playing," Sheraka said. "When I'm off the court my friends will ask about it to see how many points I am away from breaking the record. I just go out and play my game with my teammates. The more pressure the other team puts on me, the more it opens my teammates up to share in the scoring wealth. One player can't get it done on the court, the more scoring chances my team has to score, the more wins we're going to see. We are all friends off the court and they have been really supportive."
The Marquette Explorers next game will be at the Carrollton Hawks Invitational vs. Madison at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Roxana Shells will enjoy a couple days off before heading to Gibault at 6:15 p.m. Monday.
ROXANA 52, MARQUETTE 40
MARQUETTE (5-16) — Claire Snider 9, Amber Robinson 4, Caitlyn Hanlon 9, Andria Pace 9, Brittany Pace 6, Elena Gable 1, Allison Hoefert 3. 2FG — 14 3FG — 2 FT — 6
ROXANA (13-9) — Erica Sheets 12, Maddy Sheraka 23, Hannah Rexford 7, Sara Kreutztrager 6, Abby Palen 4. 2FG — 15 3FG — 5 FT — 7