Marquette defenders Spencer Cox (11), Nick Hemann (24), and Iggy McGee surround Jersey's Garrett Carey.

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ALTON - At the moment, it’s as if a lid is attached around the rim whenever teams play the Marquette Catholic Explorers.

In their last 13 games, the Explorers have surrendered an average of 35 points per game. They suffocated the Jersey Panthers in a dominating 47-22 victory in a packed, raucous gymnasium at Marquette Catholic High School in Alton on Friday night.

The Explorers displayed loads of high pressure throughout the game that forced 20 turnovers by the Panthers.

“We’re playing really good defensively,” Marquette head coach Steve Medford said. “The kids have bought in. I think it’s kind of a goal of theirs to shut down people and shut down teams and make it very difficult for them to get open looks. Not only that when you apply that much pressure on people, it becomes very difficult to rebound the basketball at times. That’s one thing we’ve done really well is we applied a lot of pressure, and they never get a second chance. I think that’s what’s been pretty neat about this team. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Six-foot-six senior center Nick Hemann finished with a game-high 16 points. Junior guard Brett Terry followed with nine points and sophomore guard Iggy McGee added seven.

“Winning for us happens on the defensive side of things,” Hemann said. “If we can keep winning with this type of swagger in us then who knows what happen. We’re a very talented team. It’s just going up for us right now. To be a good defensive team you have to do everything. You have to talk. You have to go up for boards. You can’t let teams get extra possessions. You have to pressure the ball-handlers, especially when you play a big team like Jerseyville.”

Jersey falls to 10-13 on the season.

“It’s really hard to simulate some things in practice obviously, but every high school team has that problem. I just got done telling them,” Panthers head coach Stote Reeder said. “I’m going to kill myself trying and I know they’re going to kill themselves working hard to fix it, but of the one thing to fix, we have 13 losses, and six or eight of them are simply because we turn the ball over.”

Jersey trailed 14-6 early in the second quarter but put together a 7-1 run to get to within two points at 15-13.

Given the big home crowd for the Explorers with Marquette students filling up the musical stage beyond one of the baskets, Medford thought that his players and perhaps Jersey’s were somewhat pumped up too much at the start of the game.

“I think in the beginning of the game though it was a little bit too much. I think our guys were amped up. It was 15-8, and I felt like it should’ve been 25-8. We were missing a lot of shots,” Medford said. “It was a great crowd. This is a fun atmosphere and great for a high school basketball game. I’ve had a lot of coaches after the games compliment me and say this is one of the toughest places to play in the state.”

The Explorers would then go on a role.

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They went on an 8-1 run to extend their lead to 24-13 at halftime while the Panthers got in foul trouble, in particular, forwards Matthew Jackson and Alex Srebel. Both finished with two points each. With them out, McGee, Terry, and Hemann tee’d off on attacking to the basket.

“One of our big keys was to make sure we kept [Jackson] off the boards. He was like an X-factor for them,” Hemann said. Whenever he came out of the game and stopped climbing on me on the post, we were able to get more post feeds and open things up for the middle, which allows for more penetration, which allows for more dumps down low and allows the bigs to go to work.”

"It really sucks when your two big men get in foul trouble," Reeder said. "It wasn't because of officiating they just fouled. Give credit to Marquette. They attacked them and our guys fouled. It's really hard when you're two best big men have to sit on the bench."

Marquette ended the half on an 8-1 run and led 23-14.

In the third quarter, the Explorers ran riot and outscored the Panthers 16-5 and shot 7-of-10 (70%) from the field. Chris Hartrich notched all six of his points in the game as he buried two triples while Hemann netted six points as well.

Although Hartrich didn’t light up the scoreboard offensively, on defense, he was a constant pest toward Jersey and his motor never let up for the entire until he was replaced in the last couple of minutes. Medford rates Hartrich highly for his consistent defensive displays all season.

“Chris Hartrich’s one of the best defenders I’ve ever had in nine years,” Medford said. “He is a flat out lockdown defender. He’s quick, and he’s fast. He knows how to recover, and he’s a really good defender. Chris did a great job on [Hall] tonight.”

Shalley, who scored 11 points in the first half was held scoreless in the second. The Panthers leading scorer coming into the game, Kurt Hall did not register any points. As a team, Jersey made seven field goals out of 30 attempts.

Marquette got out on a 9-0 run and outscored the Panthers 16-5 in the third quarter and led by as many as 43-19 early in the fourth.

"We're not going to quit. We're going to keep fighting this," Reeder said. "We're going to figure it out. We've got one thing to fix. I know we can do it. I believe in them. I think they believe in each other. I think the biggest problem is they don't believe in themselves, but we're going to keep fighting and keep working.

The Explorers move their record to 21-3, which is now marks the fourth season in a row they’ve eclipsed over 20 victories. What has Medford particularly excited about this group is how much they’ve grown despite a lack of experience coming into the year and the belief they still have more to show with the regular season winding down.

“A lot of guys are playing with a lot more confidence. “We’re growing,” Medford said. “We only had two guys returning from a team that played [varstity]. We’ve got six guys with no varsity experience. They’re growing as the season goes and think that’s what’s going to be fun. We’ve done this, this year. The last two or three years at this time of year we’ve only kind of just flattened or plateaued or not gotten better. We’ve gotten better, and that’s what’s fun about our team.”

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