Marmion upsets Burlington Central to win sectional crown
Marmion's plan against Burlington Central was to strike first, be the aggressor and do to the Rockets what they had done so frequently to their opponents.
The Cadets pulled it off remarkably well, with strong man-to-man defense and smoking-hot shooting.
"We watched their games. They haven't had to battle through adversity," Marmion forward Jabe Haith said. "They're always the bullies. They're always the one punching in the mouth. We thought if we punched them in the mouth, they wouldn't be ready for it because they haven't had that all season. That's what it was, we just had to go at them."
Central struggled through the first half and could not recover. The Rockets made a run in the third quarter, but Marmion was just too good. The Cadets came away with a 71-58 victory for the Class 3A Burlington Central Sectional championship Friday in front of a packed house of 1,300 fans.
It is Marmion's first sectional championship since 1976 and the Cadets (23-11) will play Metamora (31-2) at 7 p.m. Monday in the Ottawa Supersectional. Central (29-6) lost for the sixth time in a sectional title game. Metamora, last year's Class 3A state runner-up, beat Richwoods 65-50 for the Galesburg Sectional title Friday.
Marmion jumped out to a 14-1 lead with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter. Central's 6-foot-9 Drew Scharnowski picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and Rockets coach Brett Porto burned two timeouts with 3:43 to go in the first quarter.
"You can't go down 10 points in games like this," Porto said. "I've lived that before. We battled back and you're already expending so much energy in these games. We did a nice job cutting it to two (17-15) and they went right back on that run.
"We got stagnant on offense. They hit a ton of shots, deep shots, all over the place. The hoop probably seemed like the ocean to them."
The start could not have been better for the Cadets, who shot 60.9% in the first half (14 of 23) and 54.8% (23 of 42) for the game.
"We know they like to hit you quick," Cadets coach Joe Piekarz said. "We wanted to hit them quick. We wanted to be the aggressor and make them call the first timeout. A lot of it had to do with the support of our crowd."
Collin Wainscott's 3-pointer gave Marmion a 17-4 lead when Central went on its best run of the night with Scharnowski sparking a run that made it 17-15.
Marmion answered with a 15-0 run and led at halftime 38-19.
"We weren't focused on our offense, that wasn't our worry," said Haith, who scored 21 points and passed 1,000 for his career in the second quarter. "You take the stats and we have 100 more 3s and 100 less turnovers than they do. We weren't worried about offense. We were just worried about the defensive end, that's what we did."
The Rockets were able to cut the lead to 46-38 at the end of the third quarter, but the Cadets kept the lead at double digits throughout the fourth quarter.
"That's how we play. We brought it in at halftime and we talked. We said, 'Energy,'" said Scharnowski, who scored 21 points. "We were going to give it our all. We weren't going to go out and just let them stomp all over us. We're going to go out and fight. Down 20, up 20, we play basketball."
Caden West scored 15 points for the Rockets. Marmion got 18 points from 6-5 forward Trevon Roots, who also guarded Scharnowski. Wainscott scored 17 with three 3s.
Central graduated four starters from last year's team that fell to St. Francis 37-35 in a sectional championship game, but made it back to another title game behind Scharnowski and a different cast of players.
Senior Nic Gouriotis had 8 points and 7 rebounds Friday, and senior Matthew Lemon added 5 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 steals.
The Rockets also graduate Nolan Milas, Mitch Pedrigi and Mason and Quinton Erickson.
"I don't know if I can put that into words," Porto said. "I just am super grateful for the seniors. If people knew what Nic and Drew and Lemon and all these guys have done to put themselves in this position outside of the time with our practices or our summer stuff, they would be shocked.
"I wasn't surprised we got this far because I knew what kind off kids we had in that senior class. I'm just grateful."