Marian drives Tigers home

News-DemocratMarch 3, 2014 

— When asked to compare the team which won the Class 4A state championship in 2013 and the this year's squad, Chicago Heights Marian junior guard Teniya Page had no answer.

And on Monday at the Shirk Center, neither did the Edwardsville Tigers.

Shooting a sizzling 55 percent (25 of 47), the defending state champion Spartans jumped out to 19-12 first quarter lead and were never threatened as they rolled to a 71-45 win at the Bloomington Super-Sectional.

With the 5-foot-7 Page nailing her first three shots -- including a pair of NBA range 3-point jumpers -- Marian turned a slim two-point lead into a seven-point cushion and were off and running into the Class 4A state semifinals.

"It's tough to compare this year and last except that last year we wanted to win the state title and this year all we've talked about is getting back and defending,'' Page said. "We knew coming in that they (Edwardsville) were good, but we felt if we could get up early they might get down. We played really good tonight.''

Senior Ashton Millender scored 22 points and Page added 20 to lead the Spartans (27-4). Marian will move into the Class 4A state semifinals on Friday at Redbird Arena in Normal where they will take on Chicago Whitney Young at 8:15 p.m.

Whitney Young defeated Naperville Neuqua Valley 57-39 on Monday at the Hinsdale Central Supersectional.

Aaliyah Covington scored 18 points in her final game a Tiger while Kennedy Martin added 11. Edwardsville completes its season at 28-2.

Marian coach Dan Murray, who has seen his team excel once again in the 2013-14 season, didn't know when the last time his game plan worked any better then it did on Monday.

"Some nights it doesn't matter what you do but the game plan just doesn't work and other nights the game plan works to perfection. Of course when you come out and shoot the ball like we did, it helps,'' Murray said. "We wanted to create tempo and get them into a transition game. We felt if we did that it would take (Kortney) Dunbar out of the game. She's a heck of a player, but I thought we did a good job of taking her out of the game."

Dunbar, a Tennessee recruit, finished with just five points on 2 of 6 shooting from the floor.

The Spartans meanwhile were lighting it up, especially from beyond the 3-point line. Marian was 7-of-12 from the 3-point line in the first half and finished the game hitting 11 of 20.

"Coming into the game you anticipate them hitting some 3's on us. But I sure didn't anticipate them hitting them like they did," Tigers coach Lori Blade said. "They bombarded us with that. But as soon as we went man-to-man, they broke us down and got layups. It didn't matter tonight which one it was.''

Edwardsville was within 10-8 midway in the first quarter following a short jumper by Martin. But 3-point jumpers by Page and Gabrielle Cooper stretched the lead to 19-12.

The lead grew to double figures early in the second quarter when Edwardsville guard Leeah Jason scored to cut the lead to 27-18 with just over four minutes left in the first half. The basket by Jason would be the Tigers last until just under four minutes left in the third period. The Spartans closed the first half on a 12-1 run and led 39-19 at halftime.

Millender then opened the second half with a pair of medium rage jumpers and added a 3-point shot. It wasn't until Martin hit a pair of free throws with 4:36 remaining that Edwardsville had its first points of the second half but trailed 48-21.

Marian, which forced 18 Edwardsville turnovers, led by as many as 34 points in the second half.

"They are the defending state champions for a reason. They play a quality ballgame almost every night,'' Blade said. "But you can't base your season on what happened tonight..

"These kids accomplished a lot. I'm sure they're disappointed. There was a lot that went into this. It just wasn't our night. Best of luck to Marian Catholic.''

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