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Marquette Catholic vs. Tri-Central girls basketball semistate

Marquette Catholic's Emma Nolan looks to pass in the first half of  Saturday's Class A North Semistate game against Tri-Central. The Blazers recorded assists on 19 of their 22 field goals in the semistate game.

John Luke, The Times

VALPARAISO — The Marquette Catholic girls basketball team averages 17.9 assists per game.

The Blazers hit an average of 22.7 field goals per game, and for fans not doing the math in their heads, that's more than 78 percent of made shots are coming from the extra pass.

Of the eight teams playing in Saturday's state finals games, most average in double digits in the assist category, with Class 4A's Warren Central as an outlier, averaging 9.3 assists per game.

What does this mean to the Blazers?

"We play great team basketball," Marquette Catholic coach Katie Collignon said after her squad won the Class A Northern Semistate on Saturday with 19 assists on 22 field goals.

"Trusting your teammates, knowing that you have the whole bench and that anyone can come in and show up at any time really helps," said junior guard Morgan Crook, who averages 3.3 assists per game and had five in the semistate game against Tri-Central. "Just being unselfish people.

"If you know any of the girls outside of basketball, they're all amazing people with great families and great personalities. I think that just having that trust in your teammates helps move the ball around a lot."

The Blazers have assisted 99 of the 138 field goals they've sunk in the postseason, including all but three of 13 field goals in the regional title game against North White.

"This year we made a big aspect (of the game) to have everyone shooting," said junior forward Sophia Nolan, who had five assists in the semistate win. "So we practiced that a lot in practice. We play off each other, which is why we have so many assists."

With practice time used for shoring up plays, the Marquette Catholic players work away from practice on free throws. Shooting 73 percent from the free-throw line (up from 67 percent last season), the Blazers have missed 10 from the line in six postseason games.

In last year's double-overtime loss in the semistate, a missed free throw in the first OT was the difference between a potential win and sending the game to a second extra period. In last year's postseason, the Blazers missed 28 free throws in five playoff games.

"We do shoot free throws in practice, but free throws are something that we shoot on our own time, because there isn't enough practice time in the world," Crook said. "We know that free throws win championships, so we really focus on knocking those down."

Emma Nolan hit all eight of the Blazers' tries at the line in the semistate win at Valparaiso.

Vincennes Rivet, Marquette's opponent in the Class A state championship game, shoots 64 percent from the free-throw line.

"Free throws win or lose games, so those have been very important to us," Sophia Nolan said. "I know Emma, going into this game, she wasn't going to miss any because if she'd have made that one (last year), we'd have won, so I knew for a fact she wasn't going to miss this one."

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Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.