SPRING VALLEY – The Marquette Academy boys basketball team looked like they were on the verge of running away from Mendota twice during Saturday afternoon’s opening Black Pool play game of the 48th Colmone Classic.
The Crusaders held a 14-point lead early in the second quarter and a 12-point advantage midway through the third, but each time the Trojans battled back to make it a two-possession contest.
However, Marquette closed the third and began the fourth on a combined 17-0 run to finally secure a 58-36 victory to improve to 3-0 on the season.
“First off, give Mendota a ton of credit, they are a very feisty team, and they really played their butts off today,” Marquette coach Todd Hopkins said. “I was really disappointed in how we started the second half. We’d been good in that area in our first two games, but that wasn’t the case today. But we did have that run towards the end of the third and start of the fourth which I’m most happy about. We have that in us to do that, now we just need to figure out how to do it all the time.
“This group just has another gear, and while it’s not a good habit to get into to wait to use it, they were able to find it. We need to learn how to keep the foot on the accelerator and not use the cruise button.”
Mendota (2-4), which trailed 19-10 after one and 28-20 at halftime, closed to within 39-32 with 1 minute, 35 seconds left in the third after a nifty drive by Cale Strouss and a rebound basket by Rafael Romero.
Marquette responded with a corner 3-pointer by Giffin Walker and a drive by Tommy Durdan to hold a 44-32 lead heading to the fourth.
From there, the Crusaders’ Alex Graham scored from in close, Krew Bond had a three-point play, and Logan Nelson converted from the post. Walker then finished off the outburst with a triple from the corner and a driving layup in traffic to make it 56-32 with 4:48 left to play.
Walker paced Marquette with a game-high 16 points to go along with three assists and a pair of steals, while Bond finished with 13 points, four assists and three steals. Durdan added seven points, with Nelson and Charlie Mullen chipping in six points apiece. Graham had five points, a team-high five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Mendota was led by 11 points each from Romero and Izaiah Nuñez, with the former grabbing a team-high six rebounds and the latter recording four steals, while Strouss posted five points and three assists.
Marquette hit 53% (22 of 45) from the field compared to 32% (15 of 47) by Mendota, while the Crusaders also held a 28-25 margin on the boards and swished 7 of 17 attempts from beyond the arc to the Trojans’ 3 of 14.
“We have to learn how to play in close games,” Mendota coach Steve Wasmer said. “Like we have a couple times already this season, we fell behind early and then chipped away to make things close. When that happens, you have to use so much energy to dig yourself out of the hole and there isn’t anything left to fully get over the hump.
“Once we turned the ball over a couple of times to start the fourth quarter things, just kind of snowballed from there.
“I’m disappointed with the outcome, but I’m not disappointed in the effort. We played hard the entire game. We unfortunately missed a few too many easy shots at the rim early on. Other than the three-minute stretch to start the fourth quarter, I thought we executed on both ends of the floor and did a good job of not panicking and playing with calmness.”
Marquette returns to the Colmone on at 7 p.m. Monday to play La Salle-Peru, while Mendota will take on the Cavaliers at 5 p.m. Tuesday.