ALTON – What a difference a half makes. Take it from the Marquette Catholic boys’ basketball team that ventured in different directions at home Tuesday.
The Explorers overwhelmed Mount Olive, 58-17, in a Prairie State Conference game, but the walloping came thanks to a forceful second half. Marquette struggled to gain a 12-8 halftime lead.
“That first half was the worst half of basketball I’ve seen us play,” Marquette coach Steve Medford said. “We didn’t play well at all.”
So at halftime, Medford told the Explorers what they needed to hear.
“I did a lot of screaming and yelling because I wanted them to step up and play better,” he said. “And they did that.”
Marquette, which made just 4 of 22 shots the first half, hit 18 of 37 tries after that. The Explorers used a 26-point third quarter to build a 38-18 lead and coasted the rest of the way. They improved to 11-4 overall and 3-0 in PSC play. Mount Olive is 0-11 and 0-3.
“We didn’t play with a lot of fire and hit our shots in the first half,” said Explorers’ 6-foot-5 senior Max Goepel. “The coach lit a fire under us at halftime and we started playing better.”
Goepel took the halftime message to heart. He scored a game-high 16 points, including seven in the third quarter. Teammate Shandon Boone tallied all of his 10 points in the third quarter and Ben Sebacher added all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.
In addition, the Explorers’ pressure defense hounded the Wildcats.
“We can’t play like we did in the first half,” Goepel said. “We have to play harder.”
Mount Olive, though winless, had something to say about frustrating Marquette in the first half. The Wildcats even led 8-6 early in the second quarter before trailing by four points at the break.
“The first half tonight was as good of a half as we have played defensively this season,” Wildcats’ coach David Maciejewski said. “Our problem is that we have trouble scoring. It’s definitely a challenge for us to score.”
Overall, the ’Cats made only 3 of 26 field-goal attempts, including just 1 of 14 the first half. Marquette forced them to commit 33 turnovers, including 13 in the third quarter. Freshman Roger Conlee paced the visitors with nine points.
“When you are playing freshmen and sophomores like we are doing, you’ll go through some growing pains — especially with our ball-handling,” said Maciejewski, a first-year head coach. The former Rochester High assistant replaced former Alton High standout Chris Scoggins as the Wildcats’ basketball coach. Scoggins continues to coach baseball at Mount Olive.
Medford said the lesson learned was to start with a bundle of vitality, not wait around for it to begin bubbling.
“We need to have more energy, but put a little bit of that on me,” he said of the listless beginning. “You need to take care of business at the start of the game.”
He said business was better the second half.
“Our defense was a constant,” Medford said. “Then we started putting the ball in the basket. That gave us a confidence boost. You tend to get more confident when you see the ball going through the hole.”
MARQUETTE CATHOLIC 58, MOUNT OLIVE 17
Mount Olive 4 4 5 4 – 17
Marquette 6 6 26 20 – 58
Mount Olive (0-11, 0-3) – Baum 1, Bennett 4, Conlee 9, Gerl 2, Tooley 1. 2FG-2 3FG-1 FT-10 PF-13
Marquette (11-4, 3-0) – Aguirre 3, Boone 10, Fischer 7, Goepel 16, Sebacher 10, Snider 4, McAfee 1, Messinger 3, Derrington 4. 2FG-17 3FG-5 FT-9 PF-17