NEW CHICAGO | Marquette is a young team, but its members are learning to play like veterans.
Marquette (9-3), with three sophomores starters, made just enough plays down the stretch to hold off host River Forest 56-52 in a Greater South Shore Conference tourney semifinal at Bill Logan Gymnasium on Friday.
The Ingots (6-6) battled from a 12-point deficit in the second half to get within 54-52 on a bucket by J.J. Pennington with 24 seconds left in the game. Marquette pushed the ball up the floor and got it to 6-foot-8 sophomore big man Ryan Fazekas for a 56-52 advantage with :12 remaining.
“I just ran the court and got the bucket and gave us a little more comfort,” said Fazekas, who finished with a team-high 19 points. “At that point I really didn’t know how much time was left.”
River Forest was unable to make another baskets before time expired to put Marquette in tonight’s championship against Bishop Noll at Calumet.
“If we play like this, it’s going to be tough going,” Marquette coach Donovan Garletts said. “At least it’s on a neutral court. Bishop Noll is such a hard place to play at, and Calumet is a nice wide-open gym.”
Fazekas said the win gives the team some confidence.
“I think we’re going to come out big,” he said.
River Forest led 16-14 at the first stop, but Marquette surged to a 35-27 halftime advantage. Marquette opened a 47-35 lead after three quarters, and River Forest rallied.
“We let the momentum slip out of our hands and just kept turning the ball over, which we can‘t do,” Fazekas said.
The Ingots were able to get to the line in the fourth, and Malachi Sala hit a 3-pointer before Pennington converted a 3-point play to get within 41-37 with 3:12 left.
Braxton Miller added 14 points for Marquette.
“No one got down,” Pennington said.
Pennington dropped in a game-high 21 points, and Brandon Laas added 11.
“Our kids just fight, and that’s kind of our mantra,” coach Jason Quigg said. “We’re never out of it, and they showed it tonight again. That fourth quarter every loose ball we had a couple guys on the floor.
“We were getting offensive boards and getting to the line. It was a real great overall effort. We would’ve love to have won that game, but I’m really proud of our guys.”