LAFAYETTE | Move over, volleyball trophies. The Marquette Catholic hoops team is bringing back some display items.
After their dominant second half and 72-61 win over fellow first-time semistate participant Liberty Christian in Saturday’s Class A Lafayette Jefferson Semistate, the Blazers are heading to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for an unprecedented first berth in the state championship game.
A big, state-shaped trophy is coming to Marquette, a school whose athletic program – at least at the state level – was previously known solely for its small-school volleyball dominance.
Which piece of priceless memorabilia accompanies the team home will be determined when Marquette (20-6) will play southern semistate champion Barr-Reeve (26-1) at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
“It just feels great,” Marquette senior Ryan Fazekas said. “I’m so proud of this team, what we’ve brought this year and what we’ve overcome. First time in school history; we’ve come this far and we’re not going to let ourselves down.”
Fazekas displayed tremendous grit and resilience in coming back from a second-quarter injury to propel a big third-quarter spurt, helping the Blazers wrest control of the game from the Lions (20-7).
With 2:20 remaining in the second and the game tied at 31, Fazekas, a 6-foot-8 Providence recruit, went to the bench grasping his right side in anguish. He had taken an elbow to the ribs during a scramble for a loose ball.
He did not return in the first half and iced his ribs throughout halftime.
“I can still feel it; I’m still hurting,” Fazekas said after the game as teammates cut pieces of net from the Lafayette Jeff rims.
“I have this feeling on every breath. It’s definitely hurting me. … But I’ll be fine.”
Fazekas showed no signs of pain in the third. Twenty-four seconds into the second half, he hit a lefty layup, then spurred a fast break with a block on the defensive end on the very next possession.
The Blazers went on to outscore the Lions 9-1 to start the second half and increase a 35-33 halftime advantage to a 44-34 cushion. After that, Liberty Christian came close to grabbing momentum but never tied the score or led again.
Fazekas started the game shooting 2 for 10 with an 0-for-5 showing from 3-point range, where the Blazers started 2 for 9.
He eventually found ways to get to the hoop and tied free throw machine Richard Mitchell for the team lead with 15 points.
“He got a little mad at halftime,” Marquette coach Donovan Garletts said. “I told him just to brush it off. I think it was two teams playing hard, good, solid basketball on both ends. (Fazekas) came out, and he does what he does.”
Liberty Christian, which got 20 points and seven rebounds from Franklin Nunn, outrebounded Marquette 23-18 in the first half, with a whopping 13 offensive rebounds.
In the second half. Marquette focused on forcing the Lions into jump shots, and the superior depth and conditioning of the Blazers eventually overwhelmed the Lions.
Braxton Miller had 12 points for Marquette, and Nathan Flores added 11. Mitchell hit his first nine free throw attempts and went 9 of 11 from the line as the Blazers went 21-for-26 overall from the stripe.
“Rich and Nate are seniors, and they didn’t want to go home,” Garletts said. “I don’t think we have any guys who have an outstanding game or a bad game. We just have nine, 10 guys guys who are very consistent. They all play hard, and it’s a very nice thing to see them come through and get this win.”