DU QUOIN — Before a near capacity crowd at Anders Gymnasium on Tuesday decked out in competing shades of blue, Alton Marquette eliminated Pinckneyville, 60-34, in the semifinals of the Du Quoin Boys 2A Sectional.
“When we got out on the floor we realized we were quicker than them, so we wanted to wear them down, and I think we did,” said Alton Marquette coach Steve Medford.
Alton Marquette (30-3) will take a 14-game winning streak into the championship game against the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Nashville and West Frankfort on Friday at 7 p.m. The Panthers finished the season with a 26-6 record.
“I know this they were the quickest team I’ve seen on film and the most competitive team on the defensive end of the floor,” said Pinckneyville coach Bob Waggoner. “I thought their hand-pressure on the ball and their ability to go to the glass was what really impressed me. The thing they are better at than anything is their passing ability, using either hand setting up their cuts. So it was going to be a tough task for us, because when they got up on us we weren’t going to be able to get the ball from them.”
The Explorers jumped out to the early lead on a basket by Nick Hemann followed by Hemann drawing a foul 51 seconds later and making his first free throw, but missing his second.
The Panthers took the lead 1:27 later after a jumper in the lane by Dre Scott and a pull-up jumper from the right of the lane by Grant Tanner. Scott led the Panthers with 13 points.
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The Explorers took the lead back on a back-door reverse layup by Cortez Harris, but the Panthers got it back on a 3-pointer by Kelton Linze. The Panthers lead lasted just 15 seconds on a layup by Chris Hartich, which started an 11-2 run to give the Explorers a 17-9 lead heading into the second quarter. Hartich led the game with 14 points with Hemann adding 13.
After making its last five shots of the first quarter, Alton Marquette made its first four of the second quarter to extend their shooting streak to nine straight baskets as the Explorers extended their lead to 17 points with 3:41 remaining in the half. The Panthers cut the lead back to 14 on a jumper by Scott and a free throw by Dylan Houghland heading into the intermission.
Alton Marquette put the game away in the first 3:16 of the third quarter extending its lead to 23 points before the Panthers took their first shot. After the Panthers were called for charging and a defensive foul Harris scored a layup to up the lead to 25 points with 4:07 left.
“In high school we talk about the first three minutes of the third quarter, and tonight they were really significant because Pinckneyville can score in bundles and shoot the three, so getting that momentum at the beginning of the third quarter was critical,” said Melford.
The Panthers cut the lead to 21 with 28 seconds left on a layup by Ben Restoff, but Spencer Cox scored at the buzzer to extend the lead back to 23 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Panthers cut the lead to 18 with 3:43 remaining on a layup by Scott, and again to 18 with 2:50 left on a 3-pointer by Dawson Yates, but that was as close as Pinckneyville would get.