MICHIGAN CITY — After No. 1 Marquette Catholic’s 60-23 blowout victory that gave the Blazers their 36th straight win at home to put them one game away from their fourth straight sectional title, Westville coach Josh Goeringer noted something that junior Sarah Weston told him following the Blazers’ 63-21 victory over them in last year’s sectional matchup between the two schools.
“I remember something Sarah told me after we played them last year,” Goeringer said. “She told me, ‘Man, they’re everywhere.’”
In this year’s matchup, it was more of the same, as the top-ranked Blazers (22-2) forced 22 Blackhawk turnovers on their way to a 37-point win, their sixth in a row to send them to Monday night’s title game on their home floor. Their 36-game home winning streak is tied with Kokomo for the third-longest in the history of Indiana girls basketball.
St. John’s signees Emma and Sophia Nolan were their usual dominant selves, combining for 36 of the Blazers’ 60 on the night with 12 rebounds, five assists, five steals and two blocks. Claire Salyer added eight off the defending state champions’ bench, while senior guard Dia Rallings added seven more in the win. Emmery Joseph combined for just five points on four combined shot attempts, but racked up six assists and six of the Blazers’ 15 steals together.
“That was the first thing I said in the locker room after the game,” Blazers coach Katie Collignon said. “I’m just really proud of our half-court defense and how we made things tough for them. When we make things tough for other teams, they tend to get frustrated and we kinda get rolling on the offensive end. I’m just really proud of our defensive effort and I thought we all bought in and I thought the kids came ready to play defense, which is exciting.”
After a bit of a slow start that saw the teams combine to miss seven of their first nine shot attempts, the Blazers got going in the latter portion in the opening period thanks to Sophia Nolan, who scored six of her game-high 19 points in the opening quarter to push the Blazers out front after a quarter, 12-4.
Following her lead, the Blazers rolled into the intermission leading 35-10 on the back of 12 forced first-half turnovers (seven in the second quarter) and a 23-point period that saw Emma and Sophia combine for 18 of the Blazer 23 points.
“They’re very long, very well-trained and they’re well-coached,” Goeringer said on Collignon’s bunch. “We tried our gameplan and the weather obviously really didn’t help because we got one day of practice. It’s hard when you’re preparing for someone like that. I thought they really stuck to the gameplan in the first quarter. Make someone else beat us other than the Nolan girls. We know they have good role players, but make someone else beat us. I thought we had a fine first quarter and then it opened up. They’re a good team.”
The onslaught continued into the second half, as the Blazers held the Blackhawks (13-9) to just one third-quarter point and pushed the lead out to 37 points with a quarter to play, leading to some hockey-line changes from Collignon.
With the victory, their 22nd of the year, the Blazers will play Morgan Township in tonight’s title game for the fourth year in a row after the Cherokees beat Porter County Conference rival Kouts in the second game on Saturday night, 52-41. Marquette has won the previous three matchups by a shader under 22.7 points per contest, including a 37-point point blowout in last year’s title game (68-31).
“I think we look at every game night by night,” Collignon said on her team’s future goals of repeating as state champs. “That’s how you don’t get ahead of yourselves. We look at improving ourselves every single night. Like I always say, you never wanna have a bad day and that’s what we talked about tonight and that’s what the challenge is going to be for Monday is to come out mentally focused and ready to go.”
For the Blackhawks, they’ll say goodbye to a quartet of seniors — Kaitlyn Griffin, Alexandria Hisick, Kalie Keeling and Reina Steppe — but Goeringer noted much of his core will return next season with this experience under their belts. Sarah Weston led the Blackhawks with 10 points, while sister Grace chipped with three points, four rebounds and four assists. Nicole Albers added six points, a steal and an assist in the loss.
“Even my seniors I have didn’t have that much experience,” Goeringer said. “This was big for all of them. It’s a different brand of ball. The PCC Tournament’s the same way. The intensity’s always there and if you’re not ready, you’re gonna get punch in the mouth [laughs]. That’s how it feels.”
Class A Marquette Catholic Sectional
Marquette 60, Westville 23
Emma and Sophia Nolan combine for 36 points and 12 rebounds in the 37-point rout.