BOURBON | The numbers speak for themselves. It’s simple Basketball 101. If you win the battle on the boards and win the turnover battle, you win the game — usually by a lot.
In the Class A Triton Regional final on Saturday night, Marquette out-rebounded North White 40-30 with 21 of those boards on the offensive end. The Blazers also turned the ball over just 11 times while benefitting from 25 miscues from the Vikings.
Add it all up and you can’t blame North White players, coaches and fans if they asked for the license plate number of the truck that ran them over in a 79-49 Marquette victory. It’s the first boys basketball regional title for the Blazers, who advance to either the Lafayette Jeff or Huntington North Semistate (to be announced on Sunday).
And to think that North White was actually up 23-17 midway through the second quarter before the Blazers’ express got rolling.
That boulder picking up speed down the mountain began with some old-fashioned hard work in the paint. Marquette (18-6) went on a 10-0 run with all five baskets coming on offensive rebound putbacks — two of them by Tyshaun Smallwood and the other three by Richard Mitchell, Kyren Miller and JoVonte Peals.
“We always practice boxing out and we try to all crash the boards hard,” said Smallwood, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds — five of them offensive. “This is a beautiful feeling.”
It’s a joy to watch for coach Donovan Garletts, who was a little out of breath after racing all the way up to the second deck of bleachers to hug his wife, whom he called “the boss.” Then he had another word to describe Smallwood.
“Tyshaun’s a freak,” Garletts said. “And the scary thing is that he hasn’t found the weight room yet.
“Rebounding was the key for us in both games. North White has like a football team out there. They’re very skilled and they work for shots and we needed to limit those opportunities. We have four or five guys who really want to go after the boards. It’s a luxury we have, but we also practice hard at keeping the ball alive.”
After the surge of offensive rebounding, Marquette’s passing took center stage. Ryan Fazekas, the 6-foot-8 all-around player who has verbally committed to Providence, didn’t score his usual double figures — he actually went almost three full quarters between the four points he scored in the first quarter and four more points in the fourth — but was a passing machine to help the Blazers make history.
His signature play came with 4:51 left in the third quarter when he blocked a shot, grabbed the rebound, then rocketed a pass downcourt to Mitchell for an easy layup.
“I’ve always been able to pass like that. I just don’t get to do it enough,” said Fazekas, who finished with seven rebounds and five assists. “It feels great to do this for the school.”
Mitchell led the Blazers with 15 points, while Braxton Miller added 11 points on three 3-pointers made.
“Braxton was hitting 3s from all over the place,” Garletts said. “That was a big pick-me-up for us.”