Crook the cook
FULTON — On the South Central scouting report, Satellites coach Wes Bucher likened Marquette guard Morgan Crook to “option E” on the offensive end for the top-ranked Blazers heading into their Saturday morning matchup at the Class A Caston Regional.
When you have two Division-I commits on the blocks in Emma Nolan (six points, nine rebounds, three assists and three blocks) and sister Sophia (12 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals), Crook and the other guards become somewhat of an afterthought. She became the only thing the Satellites were seeing on the floor, as the guard drilled six 3-pointers in 10 attempts to lift the No. 1 Blazers (24-2) to a 51-28 rout of the Porter County Conference Tournament champions to advance to Saturday night’s final against Fremont.
“We got to about ‘option E’ on defense and we knew coming in that if we got past option B, we were gonna be in trouble,” Bucher said. “It’s just one of those things where you pick your poison against a team like that. We picked ours and it was the wrong one. It is what it is. You got two D-I girls inside, it’s obvious that they’re your No. 1 concern. We kept them relatively low in the first half, but if you can’t stop the outside shot and they’re not gonna miss, it’s gonna be tough.”
It was a tough afternoon scoring the ball for Marquette’s twin towers, scoring just 18 points on 23 shot attempts against the Satellites’ 1-3-1 zone defense, but it was Crook, Claire Salyer and Emmery Joseph that helped pick up the slack, specifically on the offensive glass where the Blazers used some extra possessions off missed shots to put an 11-3 first-quarter lead out to 14 points (25-11) at the break with one of their stars (Emma) in early foul trouble.
“It was a great team effort from us,” Blazers coach Katie Collignon said on the victory. “Everyone we play is going to key on the twins as they should. They both do phenomenal things for us, but we always need those extra plays that we talk about, especially in that first quarter on the offensive end with Claire getting those extra rebounds and Morgan hitting shots from outside. It just helps our team.”
Crook, who earned 21 points, hit three of her six triples in the opening two quarters, including a putback bucket in the middle of the frame off one of her three rebounds on the day. Despite her hot shooting that led all scorers in the win, Crook gave the credit to Salyer, who tied Emma Nolan with a team-high nine rebounds, including a handful of them on the offensive boards.
“Claire’s rebounding was the game-winner, I think,” Crook said. “Without those second-chance points, nobody would’ve gotten rolling. Without that second rebound, I would’ve never hit my first shot to get rolling. It’s always the little things that people don’t really notice, and I think Claire did an amazing job getting those boards to help pick us up.”
On top of their extra possessions that helped the Blazers take 17 more shot attempts than the Satellites, Marquette hounded S.C. stars Abbie Tomblin and Amber Wolf to the tune of 12 combined points on 5-of-17 shooting, while the Satellites (19-7) turned the ball over 18 times as a team. Outside of the final quarter where they scored 13 points, the Satellites only mustered just 15 points in the first three quarters.
“I thought our team defense in that first half was stellar,” Collignon said. “We made it really, really hard on them to find open shots in the half-court, which was one of the things we focused on, and I’m just really proud of the way we played defensively and our total team effort.”
Both Collignon and Crook credited the Blazers’ scout-team looks during the recent week of practice, showing them all of the Satellites’ looks offensively and in their extended 1-3-1 that did bother Marquette just a pinch early in the contest before Crook helped them settle in.
“We went and watched their game at (Oregon-Davis on Tuesday) and they went at them,” Crook said. “Once we saw that, we really locked down and got prepared in practice. Our scout team ran their offenses amazingly, so we got some practice at what they like to do on defense, too. We knew it was going to be a good game with them. We were really prepared for this game.”
Things went from bad to worse for the Satellites in the third period, as Crook drilled two more triples in the third, while Emma Nolan, who went scoreless at the break with two early fouls, found the scoreboard for a six-point frame. Crook added her sixth and final make from deep halfway through the fourth for the icing on the cake.
“I’ve struggled in the past with my confidence and shooting,” Crook said. “If you don’t take shots, they’re never going to go in. I just keep shooting, especially open looks, because even if I miss a few of them, it’s still gonna give us a chance at second-chance points with our great rebounders on our team.”
On top of the victory for Marquette, Joseph eclipsed a personal career milestone with four assists in the game to give her 602 career assists to make her only the ninth player in state history with 600+ career assists, according to Blazers assistant athletic director Brad Collignon.
For South Central, it’s the end of the road, but the beginning of something potentially pretty special with the Satellites program. Marissa Carr, McKenzie Hudspeth, Kate Rudolph and Skyler Wildfong will depart, but Tomblin and Wolf will return to lead the charge back to the top of the PCC and into what could be a deep tournament run next year as they move up to Class 2A due to their enrollment totals.
“That’s one thing we reiterated in the locker room is how proud we are of our seniors,” Bucher said. “They’re competitors and they focus on the right things. They teach the kids how to play correctly. That’s gonna suck missing them next year.”
Marquette faced Fremont (17-8) in the Caston Regional final on Saturday night. The Eagles beat Pioneer 52-39 in Saturday’s second semifinal.
Class A Caston Regional
No. 1 Marquette 51, No. 11 South Central 28
Blazers’ Morgan Crook nailed 6-of-10 three-pointers and tallied 21 points.