After a promising start against Belvidere's man-to-man defense, Marmion's offense went stagnant when the Bucs switched to a 2-3 zone in the second quarter.
The Cadets connected on just 1 of 18 attempts from 3-point range and were outrebounded 43-28 as Belvidere pulled away for a 60-43 victory Thursday night in the semifinals of Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament in DeKalb.
Marmion (4-7) will face West Chicago at 6 p.m. Friday in the third-place game while Belvidere (10-2) advances to the championship game against Hinsdale South. The Hornets captured a 54-48 decision over West Chicago in the first semifinal.
"We were just hesitant to make the play throughout the entire game when they went zone," said Marmion coach Ryan Paradise. "Credit their defense, but we didn't put any pressure on them."
After posting consecutive wins over Schurz, Belvidere North and DeKalb to open the tournament, Marmion looked poised to put together another strong performance.
Mike Sheehan's 3-pointer tied the game at 10-10 midway through the first quarter and a pair of baskets from junior forward Jake Esp kept Marmion within 20-16 at the 5:16 mark of the second quarter.
"We were just looking to get the ball inside and I tried to take advantage of the mismatches," Esp said.
To that point, Esp had carved up the Bucs' defense for 9 of his game-high 19 points, but Belvidere coach Aaron Pearson altered the course of the game with his move to the zone defense.
"Jake started off the game on fire, but then they went zone and didn't have to do much," Paradise said. "That was a good move by them and when we're not hitting the outside jump shots, there's no reason for them to come out of it."
Despite the offensive struggles, Marmion still only trailed 33-26 midway through the third quarter. The Bucs finally built a comfortable working margin with a 15-4 run, highlighted by 7 straight points from Colton Bahling.
It looked like the Cadets might make a game out of it early in fourth quarter when Corey Friel, Esp and Jordan Glasgow scored in succession to narrow the gap to 49-38, but Belevidere stemmed the tide with a 3-pointer from Joe Byers (15 points) and a driving layup from Bahling.
"We played the first quarter and a half tough and then we played two tough minutes in the fourth," Paradise said.
Glasgow and Danny Bicknell finished with 6 points each for Marmion while Bicknell grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
"They killed us on the boards and we didn't get any second chances off our misses," Paradise said. "They did a good job of cleaning it up and going the other way."