Home Sweet For Explorers In Victory Over Hillsboro


The Alton Marquette high school gym is a unique place in which to watch a high school basketball game. When one steps in the doors, he is very close to the playing floor. The ceiling is infamous for its flat appearance; also close to the floor, it appears to be low enough to have long, high arching threes skim its surface (it isn’t, but that appearance is enough to make those who don’t play there often consider altering their shots). The one bank of bleachers provides seating for both the home crowd and visitors; those on the bottom row are close enough to touch players as the action proceeds.

A quarter of those bleachers are reserved for a motley-dressed student jeering section; they were even rude to their own participating in a shooting contest at halftime. However, at least for this season the biggest obstacle presented to visiting teams is the quick defense the Explorers employ.

That defense, quick to drop from the perimeter to clog the lane if the ball is passed inside, held Hillsboro to a season low 36 points Tuesday evening, Jan. 4; in their first 15 games, the Toppers had averaged 61 points a game. Their lowest total before the AM experience was 46 against Mascoutah in the Greenville shootout. The Explorers, on the other hand, had 54 after three quarters; the last quarter began with a running clock.

The only Topper to reach double figures was Drake Vogel with 14; two of those came off an uncontested rebound putback. Perhaps because the officiating seemed more concerned with contact underneath than officials in this area are, Gavin Matoush and Blaze Helton were saddled with foul trouble for most of the contest.

Matoush finished with six points and four rebounds. Helton also had four rebounds, but he was shut out regarding points for the first time this season. Vogel’s six and Jace Stewart’s six rebounds topped the list in that category.

Also hurting the Toppers when it came to defensive rebounding was the “It was one of those nights” factor. Even when the rebounding triangle of Helton, Matoush, and Vogel formed at the Explorer basket as an enemy shot went up, the rebound too often hit the rim and caromed over the heads of the trio. That happens occasionally in every game; it happened often in Alton.

Mostly, though, it was the quick Explorer hands and feet defensively that earned them the easy win. Anticipation of Topper intents helped them build their 17-5 first quarter lead; after Hillsboro played evenly with them in the second quarter, the hosts opened the second half with an 8-2 run to erase all hopes of a Topper comeback.

Owen Williams, a 6’ senior (the only senior in the starting lineup) led all scorers with 17; also in double figures were junior point guard Parker Macias with 14 and sophomore guard Braden Kline with 10. The starters saw limited time in the abbreviated fourth quarter.

The junior varsity game also went to AM; Topper sophomore Deklan Riggs had five treys for 15 points, but no one else had more than three. Both Kendall Lavendar and Jackson Pranger scored 20 for the Explorers.

Next up for the Topper squads is a trip to Waverly to play South County, made up of players from Waverly and Franklin and surrounding areas. The first tip is at 6 p.m. this Friday, Jan. 7.

January 4 at Alton

Hillsboro 5 14 8 9 36

Marquette 17 15 22 6 60

Hillsboro (36) - Drake Vogel 14, Gavin Matoush 6, Will Christian 6, Deklan Riggs 5, Blaine Stewart 3, Jace Stewart 1, Dillon Devlin 1. Totals: 12-34 8-13 36.

Marquette Catholic (60) - Owen Williams 17, Parker Macias 14, Braden Kline 10, Dre Davis 6, Jamion Everage 6, Kendall Lavender 5, Brody Hendricks 2. 

Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 4 (Vogel 2, B. Stewart 1, Riggs 1); Marquette Catholic 10 (Williams 3, Macias 2, Kline 2, Lavender 1, Davis 1, Everage 1).

Records: Hillsboro (9-7); Marquette (9-8).

Junior Varsity

Hillsboro JV 2 12 5 3 22

Marquette JV 17 19 21 11 68

Hillsboro JV (22) - Deklan Riggs 15, Nathan Schaake 3, Nathan Matoush 2, Dylan Lessman 2.

Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 5 (Riggs 5).

Record: Hillsboro (2-5).


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