Boys basketball: Seniors spark Marquette to romp over visiting Dwight

Henry McGrath, Hoffman, Swords lead Cru to 20th win

Marquette and Dwight logos together

OTTAWA – It’s a Marquette basketball tradition in the home finale to start seniors who’ve seen little prime-time action most of the season, a moment in the sun that serves as a reward for the hard work they put in testing the regulars each day in practice.

However, judging by the play of the three upperclassmen who got that nod on Friday night in Bader Gym, that was a pretty hard distinction to make.

Seniors Stefan Swords, Daniel Hoffman and Henry McGrath looked like anything but non-starters, leading the Crusaders to an 11-point first quarter lead on Tri-County Conference foe Dwight on their way to a 65-37 running-clock victory.

McGrath hit his only shot and grabbed five rebounds in that opening period, while a Swords deuce gave the hosts their first double-digit lead.

A 3-pointer by Hoffman a minute later gave them their second and started a run in which Marquette outscored the Trojans 34-4, completely erasing any thoughts of a flat start after Marquette’s big win over No. 8-ranked Serena on Tuesday.

That burst included the 10 points scored by sophomore Alec Novotney in a 25-2 second quarter that made him the game’s only player in double figures, one of 12 players to dent the scoreboard as MA secure its 20th win in 27 games this season.

“We did well, didn’t really miss a beat,” Hoffman said of the first quarter. “Then everybody stepped up. … This was really good for us after Tuesday. After a big win against a good team like Serena, coming out flat has to be a concern, but we had none of that tonight.”

A pair of 3s by senior Carson Zellers in the first 90 seconds and a 1 for 7, 2 for 12 start from the field for Dwight helped that new trio give the home team a 14-4 edge on Swords’ putback of his own miss. Hoffman then nailed his trey to make it 17-7 and the rout was on.

The visitors managed just a late first period lay-in and a second quarter jumper by Luke Gallet over the next 13 minutes, 34 seconds of action. By the time Joey Starks made their next shot, Marquette led 48-11.

In the last home contest for Swords, Hoffman, Henry McGrath, Zellers, Denver Trainor, Pete McGrath and Charlie Mullen, the Cru move to 20-7 and 8-0 in the Tri-County heading into Tuesday’s regular-season title showdown with fellow league unbeaten Seneca.

“We played pretty well tonight and that’s a credit to our seniors,” MA coach Todd Hopkins said. “With Henry, Daniel and Stef in the first group out there, we didn’t miss a beat and that set the tone for the rest of the night. Everybody played tonight and everybody played well.

“We were a little relaxed after Tuesday because of all the energy expended, but they responded tonight just the way they should. It was a nice night for Marquette and a great send-off for our seniors. … Now we have to turn our focus to Seneca and hopefully a conference title on Tuesday.”

Evan Cox and Owen Dunlap each netted six points, while Ryan Hilt added five to lead the Trojans (7-20, 2-6), who finished the night shooting just 33% and committing 16 turnovers.

“I think they could have had any five players out there and they would have beat us tonight,” Dwight coach Jeremy Connor said. “They played hard, crashed the boards hard and we didn’t do a great job boxing out, giving them a lot of second shots, and then everybody was shooting well for them and we couldn’t buy a bucket.

“We came in wanting to shut down Denver and Novotney, nice players who hurt us the last time we played, but everyone joined the scoring parade on their team tonight.”

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