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ALTON – It can certainly be argued that sport can bring people together in ways no other activity can and create ways to allow those taking part to learn about other nations and people through a common language.
Marquette Catholic's boys basketball team had that opportunity Thursday night as the Explorers were visited by the basketball team of Trinity Grammar School of suburban Sydney, Australia, who is currently on a tour of the United States that started last week in the Chicago area and made its way to Southwestern Illinois with the game against the Explorers.
The Explorers defeated Trinity 72-27, but in many ways, the result wasn't as important as was the opportunity to meet and play against those from another nation and culture.
“It's a great opportunity for our kids to compete against another country,” said Explorer coach Steve Medford. “Basketball's a great game and you get to teach a lot of values in basketball, but these next two days, getting to hang out with different kids from a different culture – that's a great learning experience for your kids. It's more than a game of basketball, this is going to be a really cool fit for our kids.”
Basketball has grown in Australia over the past several years, and the opportunity for Trinity to play teams like Marquette is a learning experience not only for the Explorers, but for Trinity as well. “What was really neat was their coach (Ben Morrissey) came over to us and said, 'this is good for our kids to see the kind of speed and athleticism and how much more you guys do with a purpose',” Medford said. “Their game over there is kind of a different game; they still play by the international (FIBA, the International Basketball Federation) rules (the game in Alton was played under NFHS rules used in American high schools) – they play with a 24-second shot clock, so kids don't have to guard as long and don't have to guard as hard.
“They're not used to transition defense like we are, so we got to push the ball a little bit and get some easy transition baskets – it's a different game. I thought our kids played with a lot of effort and a lot of enthusiasm tonight and that's good.”
“It's a great experience,” Trinity coach Morrissey said. “Basketball's important, but it's all about the cultural experience and our kids getting a chance to see what it's like living in America, and we're experiencing that and it's a lot of fun.”
Playing under American high school rules rather than international rules was a different experience for Trinity, but the experience was one his players could learn from, Morrissey felt. “We play under international rules, like in the Olympics,” Morrissey said. “Not having a shot clock's pretty tough for us, but we're a young group – a very, very young group – and we're competing, but we can't score.
“You're not seeing the benefit over here, but we'll see it back home in two years and we'll be really tough and we'll get better for going through and seeing how hard the American high schools play – everything they do is with a purpose. We've got guys playing tonight that aren't even freshmen – 13- and 14-year-olds, as we start high school a bit earlier over in Australia.”
Trinity was playing their fourth game of their tour, which runs through mid-December. “The kids, it's their fourth game in a row and they're tired,” Morrissey said. “Hats off to Marquette – they're a well-coached team – they've got most of their team back from last year and they're going to have a really successful season. They just kept coming at us and never gave us a break and it's great for our kids; when we get back home, we're going to be a hard team because we're going to play at this pace.”
Isaiah Ervin led the Explorers with 18 points on the night, with Nick Hemann and Jake Hall each adding 12 points, Sammy Green nine and Reagan Snider eight; for Trinity, Ethan Bateman led with six points, with Alex Mackenzie adding five and Earvin Dizon and Jack Nichol four points each on the night.
“I want to thank the American people and the city of Alton for how they've made us feel welcome; everywhere we've gone on this tour and the state of Illinois have treated us with such kindness and such enthusiasm – they really want to know our boys and it's great.”
Trinity's tour continues at Granite City Saturday night; next up for Marquette is a Prairie State Conference game against Mount Olive at home; tip is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
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