Boys basketball: Yorkville Christian hits 19 threes, moves into regional semifinal

Zach Marini scores 26 points, Jayden Riley 21 in Mustangs’ 101-88 win over Gardner-South Wilmington

Yorkville Christian junior Zach Marini

YORKVILLE – Yorkville Christian opened the fourth quarter of Monday’s Class 1A Aurora Christian Regional quarterfinal against Gardner-South Wilmington by melting away nearly the entire first minute before junior Zach Marini buried another three-pointer for the Mustangs.

It was a shooter’s night in Yorkville as the Tigers made 15 threes but the host Mustangs made 19 to earn a 101-88 victory.

Yorkville Christian (14-17) advances to Wednesday’s regional semifinal against Earlville at 7:30 p.m.

“In times like this it could be our last game even though it obviously isn’t going to be,” Marini said. “But we had to make sure we were going to win, to keep the lead going, be smart and just get the right shot. We’re good at that.”

While bombing away is a key part of Yorkville Christian’s repertoire, the Tigers weren’t expected to nearly match it.

“I’ve seen them play six times and maybe nine threes total out of the six games,” Mustangs coach Aaron Sovern said. “They were were shooting it. Part of it was we didn’t guard a soul.”

Marini certainly wasn’t the sole Mustang connecting from three-point range either, but it was his three-pointer at the end of their lengthiest possession of the night that made it 80-58 with 7:08 to play.

“My teammates are great and always pushing hard,” Marini said. “Spacing the floor is how we get our threes. JR’s (Jayden Riley) always driving and leading the attack and we’re just being ready to shoot.”

While Marini led the team with six threes and 26 points, Riley had three and 21 points, freshman Jordan Purvis had four and 16 points, junior Brady Sovern had five and 15 points and freshman Tray Alford had one and 13 points.

Sovern drilled all but one of his threes in the second half.

“He’s a great shooter and every time the ball switches sides there’s always a person open,” Marini said. “We work on it in practice and we’re all ready.”

Taking at least 500 shots a day is one of the reasons why Sovern is able to stay sharp when the ball comes his way.

“My teammates found me in the second half and they’re all good at making the extra pass,” he said. “I’ve got a special connection with Tray (Alford), especially in practice.”

Alford finished strong making 8-of-8 free throws, and, of course, adding in a trey as well another basket.

“My thing has always been to look for the hot hand,” Alford said. “If I don’t have it going, I’ll look for someone else who has it going and go there. Like, it’s really fun playing fast paced, especially just getting the ball out and going and looking for open shots and just playing with your team. We played as at team, fast and together.”

Riley aggravated a leg injury late in the third quarter and did not return, although Sovern said it’s nothing serious. He scored 21 of his points in the first half.

“It was one off those ‘I could go if I have too,’ and as long as we were up 15 or more I had it in my head that we were going to keep him there (on the bench),” Aaron Sovern said. “He’ll be fine. We’re going to need him because hopefully we have a busy week.”

Noah Aguado added six points and eight rebounds for the Mustangs.

Seniors Cale Halpin (34 points) and Bennett Grant (24) could’t have done much more in their final high school games for the Tigers. They combined for 13 threes.