A monstrous third quarter helped propel Alton Marquette to its first ever super-sectional with a 55-48 win over Nashville on its home court in the Class 2A Sectional championship game Friday night.
The Explorers, now 30-3 for the season, will meet up with Mt. Carmel – a 54-49 winner over Robinson – in the Carbondale Super-Sectional on Tuesday at the SIU Arena.
“I’m just so happy for these kids because they really wanted it, and they go about it the right way. They prepare like heck, and I’m just so darned proud of them,” said Marquette coach Steve Medford. “We finally got one, and dang, it feels good.”
Nashville controlled nearly the entire first half, leading by as many as 13 points in the second quarter before settling on a 26-17 lead at halftime.
But the Explorers dialed up the pressure in the third quarter, which seemed to stun the Hornets, all while hitting 5 of 6 shots from beyond the 3-point line in the period to help them outscore Nashville 21-9 in the frame.
In a span of merely two minutes, the Explorers went from being down seven points to up six thanks to a dizzying 13-0 run.
Reagan Snider started the blitz at the 3:20 mark with a 3-pointer, which was followed by a bucket by Sammy Green.
But then sophomore guard Isaiah Ervin hist back-to-back treys and then scored on a layup to give Marquette a 38-32 lead with 1:19 left in the third quarter.
“Isaiah is capable of that; he’s done that several times for this year,” Medford said. “They shocked us at the beginning of the game with the defense they were playing, and we didn’t know how to attack it. But I thought our pressure got after them a little bit, and we thought that would be an advantage for us. We wanted to speed things up a little bit, and I thought our kids did a good job with it.”
Snider led three players in double figures for Marquette with 20 points, as Green added 15 points and Ervin 11.
The Explorers were only 6 of 18 from the field in the first half, but shot 71 percent (12 of 17) in the second half while hitting 7-of-9 free throws in the final 51 seconds to hold off a late surge by the Hornets.
Brogan Kemp led Nashville (20-13) with 14 points. Hayden Heggemeier ended with 10.
“They turned up the heat and forced us to cough it up several times, and they converted on it,” Hornets coach Brad Weathers said of the pivotal third quarter. “They hit some tough shots and drew us out of our combination defense, which I thought we played very well.
“I’m very proud of our kids,” added Weathers. “Even though it wasn’t real pretty at times in the second half, I thought we left it on the court. I don’t think anybody played a tougher schedule than us this year, which helped us to get to this point.”