Boys basketball: Marquette tops Woodland in Tri-County thriller

Crusaders stay unbeaten in conference play with a tough 57-51 victory over the Warriors

Denver Trainor of Marquette puts up a shot over Woodland's Nick Plesko during the game on January 30, 2024.

RURAL STREATOR – The Marquette Academy boys basketball team held a two-point lead over Woodland with three minutes to play in Tuesday’s Tri-County Conference game at a rocking Warrior Dome.

The Crusaders then got a tough inside basket from Peter McGrath and a block and rebound from Charlie Mullen on the Warriors’ following possession to start a push towards a 57-51 victory.

Marquette (15-7 overall, 5-0 TCC) had defeated Woodland 69-52 in the semifinals of last week’s TCC Tournament.

“We knew coming in here tonight it was going to be tough,” Marquette coach Todd Hopkins said. “They did a really good job on (Alec) Novotney, but give all the other guys credit for stepping up all game long. Charlie had a big rebound late, Henry (McGrath) had big rebounds all game, Peter hit a big shot late, and Denver (Trainor) and Carson (Zellers) played solid on both ends of the floor.

“In a tough place to play like it is here, and against a pretty darn good team, it was a really good team win for us.”

Trainor led the Crusaders with a game-high 21 points, with Zellers adding nine points and four assists. Henry McGrath and Mullen each scored seven points, with the former grabbing a game-best 12 rebounds and the latter nine.

“We talked at halftime how Woodland would come after us to start the second half, and they did. I thought we did an excellent job of being patient in the fourth quarter and getting the shots we wanted.”

—  Todd Hopkins, Marquette Academy boys basketball coach

Marquette led 17-12 after eight minutes, with Trainor scoring six points and Mullen five. The Cru led 22-18 before closing out the first half on a 7-2 run with hoops from Henry McGrath and Peter McGrath sandwiched around a 3 by Trainor. Marquette held a 21-8 advantage in rebounds in the first two quarters and 38-20 for the game.

“Rebounding was obviously something we preached about after the Seneca game last week,” Hopkins said. “I thought, especially in the first half, the guys did an excellent job on the boards. We talked at halftime how Woodland would come after us to start the second half, and they did. I thought we did an excellent job of being patient in the fourth quarter and getting the shots we wanted.”

Woodland (14-9, 4-2) closed to within 41-34 at the end of the third, as Jonathan Moore scored eight points. The hosts then cut the deficit to 48-46 with 3:10 left after a pair of baskets from Nick Plesko and a 3 by Nolan Price.

From there, McGrath’s drive, Mullen’s block and 6 of 10 free throws made by Marquette kept Woodland at arm’s length.

Plesko paced Woodland with 14 points and seven rebounds, Moore added 13 points, three rebounds and five assists, while Connor Dodge chipped in seven points.

“To be honest, our gameplan tonight wasn’t much different than what we had last week against them other than a couple of matchups defensively,” said Woodland coach Connor Kaminke. “We talked about being a little better with our on-ball defense, cutting off gaps and really just being sharper and smarter.

“We talked a lot about controlling what we can control. We said we can’t worry about the past or the last play or what may or may not happen. We needed to be focused on tonight and playing Marquette to the best of our abilities. I really thought other than not making a couple more shots tonight, I really thought we battled form start to finish and did everything I could have wanted other than getting the win.

“(Moore) is the heart and soul of this team. He’s done everything he can to improve this program from Day 1. He works his butt off every second on the floor, and he really gave us a huge lift in the third quarter tonight when we needed it.

“We just came up a little bit short tonight.”

Marquette is back in action Friday at Henry-Senachwine, while Woodland travels to play Dwight on Saturday.

Jonathan Moore makes a crosscourt pass to a teammate while being pressured by Marquette at Woodland School on January 30, 2024.