Sigh of relief
MICHIGAN CITY — Crete-Monee’s Julian Dancy scored 12 of his team’s first 15 points and 25 points overall on Wednesday night in the home opener for Marquette, but it was the three that he didn’t get at the final horn that made the difference for the Blazers in their 69-66 victory over the traveling Warriors.
“The free throws,” Blazers coach Fred Mooney said. “We did some other things wrong with the turnovers, but without the missed free throws, the game isn’t that close at the end.”
How close was it?
From the 5:52 mark of the fourth quarter on, no lead was bigger than three points, hence why Mooney wanted those 12 free throws missed in 28 total attempts to drop for his side. It was tight all the way to the finish; down to the Dancy miss at the buzzer from the right wing on a well-designed play from the Warriors to get the ball the length of the floor out of a timeout.
“We missed a ton of one-and-ones, especially the front ends,” Mooney said. “Something that didn’t happen on Saturday (in a loss to Gary West Side) was that we didn’t show the same heart we did tonight. We battled through it as a team and I was really proud of that.”
It wasn’t a one-and-one, but Blazers star Colin Kenney had a chance to ice the game with a pair of freebies at the line, but the first one rimmed out before he made the second to give the Warriors the shot to Dancy that didn’t drop.
“I’m happy we got the win,” Kenney said. “I’m really mad at myself for missing my free throws. We missed a lot of them as a team, but we got the win in our home opener and it’s better to start out 1-1 than 0-2. I’m really happy for my teammates. They did a good job.”
The future Furman Paladin dropped a game-high 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting, but some key contributions down the stretch from the others on the floor helped the Blazers cross the finish line first. Senior guard Dayn Staab canned the triple that tied the game at 52 with 5:52 left in the game.
Kenney was his usual clutch self, hitting three triples in the final 4:54 of the contest, but it was the half-court ball movement and slick dish from junior Vaunte Johnson to Joe Andershock down low that put the Blazers up 68-66 inside of 20 seconds remaining before a travel call on the other end of the floor got the Blazers the ball back for Kenney’s split at the line.
“We cannot simulate in practice the pressure that we see in games,” Mooney said on the heart-stopping finish. “Our kids are gonna grow. We have a lot of kids on varsity this season that haven’t seen defense thrown at them like this. The intensity, the speed of the game, the pressure up and down the court ... they haven’t seen that before. How are we gonna better? We gotta see it. We’re learning on the fly.”
Kenney was not only happy that his future school beat 2018 Men’s Final Four participants Loyola-Chicago and Villanova in the span of eight days recently, but that his current teammates are making plays and progress around him.
“If we wanna make the run that we want to make, everybody’s gotta contribute,” Kenney said. “It’s great to see guys performing like that in a tight spot.”
Marquette 69, Crete-Monee 66
Colin Kenney scored 29 points for the Blazers.