LAFAYETTE | Marquette's one-point losses to Triton in the last two sectionals are a distant memory after Saturday's Class A semistate victory, but junior JoVonte Peals remembers a message he delivered after the 2013 sectional.
"I told the team we were not going to lose this year, that we were going to state," Peals said. "It feels good to go. It's been my dream since our freshman year."
Marquette coach Donovan Garletts called the past the past, but didn't discount the motivation the consecutive bitter ends may have had on his players.
"It's truly a blessing be in a situation like this," Braxton Miller said. "There are a lot good teams and they don't always make it."
The Blazers will face Barr-Reeve for the state championship.
"It's something I've always dreamed of," Richard Mitchell said. "It's a big accomplishment. Hopefully, we can stay focused and get it done there, too."
"We’ve come this far..." Ryan Fazekas said. "It’s something we talk about at practice every day; how much we want it.”
Closing time: Marquette continued its trend of putting together big second halves, turning a two-point game into a rout.
“I don’t even know that it’s necessarily that we’re in better shape, but we’re deeper,” Garletts said. “We played nine guys in the first half, and they all gave us good minutes. Whenever you can get your starters a significant amount of rest throughout the game, that’s a huge positive.”
The Blazers quickly pushed the spread to double digits in the third quarter and ran away in the fourth.
"I think we just wear on teams," Mitchell said. "Speed is our biggest thing."
Marquette also finished 21 of 26 at the foul line.
"Conditioning's a really big factor," Miller said. "At halftime, we get a break, then we're able to go right at them right away."
Peals sparked the bench contribution with eight points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
"Coach just told me at halftime he needed me to come out and be a vacuum cleaner, get every rebound I could get," Peals said. "My role on the team is to bring as much energy as I can. We came out in the second half with a lot of energy. We just need to do it in the first half, too."
Blazer balance: Marquette put four players in double figures -- Mitchell, Fazekas, Nate Flores and Miller -- and had two others a basket away.
"Anybody can be our leading scorer on any night," Mitchell said.
"As you can see, we've got five dudes who can score at any time," Miller said. "We don't have to worry if somebody's off. It's really truly a group effort with our team, which is rare in high school."
Cherishing the twine: Fred Mooney accumulated plenty of celebratory nets in his years at Hammond Baptist. That didn't make the small piece of string in the Marquette assistant's hands any less precious.
"It's a real blessing," Mooney said. "What a treat."
Blacked out: More than an hour before the game, Lake Central fans were already lined up deep outside the door, the majority dressed in all black.
Homestead also wears blue, so the strong Lake Central contingent donned black attire, including a popular shirt boasting of the Final Four trip.
“The idea was generated by students, and we have a great group of seniors backing this team,” L.C. principal Robin Tobias said. “It’s been a very exciting week. We started spring break this weekend, and all week we were able to honor all of the great accomplishments of our winter athletes.”
The school took an allotment of 1,000 tickets. Nearly 800 of them were sold with hundreds more planning walk-up purchases.
“Basketball is Indiana’s sport,” Tobias said, “and it’s easy to follow.”
No cheering in press box: Former Merrillville coach Jim East did the Marquette-Liberty Christian Class A opener on Region Sports Network but opted out of the 4A game because Homestead's coach, Chris Johnson, once coached with East.
Mark Smith filled in for East.
-- Jim Peters, Paul Trembacki and Al Hamnik contributed to this story.