By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
Preston was tired of letting Marquette Catholic hang around Tuesday night, so the Trojans started the second half on a 10-0 run to expand their lead to 37-24.
Nobody told Marquette senior Mathias Peters that run was supposed to effectively end the game.
Peters made five 3-pointers — four in the fourth quarter — and scored 17 of his 20 points after Preston’s run to help pull the Mohawks to within 50-49 with under two minutes to play.
“I really wasn't thinking about it a lot,” Peters said. “I knew I could hit those shots, so I just took them. I was trying to narrow the score.”
Preston coach Dan Beck told his players to run the clock on offense to shorten the game. The Trojans made just enough free throws down the stretch — 3 of 6 in the final 40 seconds — and held Marquette scoreless to pull out a 53-49 win in a Class 1A District 6 semifinal.
“It means a lot to the seniors,” Preston junior Chase Zaruba said. “They know they're not going to get to play on this court again, and to get the last victory was big.”
Zaruba scored the first four points of the second half and then Craiton Andresen took over. Andresen grabbed a long defensive rebound, raced upcourt, made a layup and was fouled. He converted the three-point play. On the next possession Andresen drilled a 3-pointer, forcing longtime Marquette coach Jim Squires to call a timeout. Squires is planning to retire after this season.
“We didn’t identify a couple of their shooters, and they hit some big shots,” Peters said. “They hit us where it hurt. We couldn’t come all the way back from that.”
But the Mohawks (15-8) certainly tried. Preston kept the margin to 12 points after the third quarter, but Marquette started the fourth quarter with a run.
Peters made back-to-back 3-pointers and then Isaac Sturm scored in the lane to start a 10-1 run that cut the deficit to three. Then, Preston’s Colton Bormann knocked down a 3-pointer and Peters answered with one.
“The first game I scouted them, he really shot the ball well,” Beck said of Peters. “We've had him on our report always as a good shooter. Then the other night he went 1-for-9 at Midland. Tonight, he was hotter than blazes. He's never shown us that range. I think there were a couple of times the kids thought they were close enough and he still knocked it down.”
Preston (20-3) got one free throw from Colin Larson, but Peters drained another 3-pointer.
“We couldn’t close it out,” Peters said. “We played a good game for the most part. Preston really played a good game, too, though. They’re a great team. I think they’re going to make it out to Des Moines.
“I’ll definitely be cheering for that. There’s a lot of good players on their team that I’ve known for a long time. They’re a class act all around.”
Beck called timeout with 97 seconds to play and went into the stall.
“We weren't getting anything done offensively,” Beck said. “We shoot so many free throws in practice, I always trust our free throws. At that point, we wanted Colton and Chase handling the ball to get one of those two guys to the line. … I'll do it again if I need to.”
Zaruba and Bormann handed the ball off back and forth, but the Mohawks didn’t want to foul either of those two.
“I was guarding Larson and he was 1-for-5,” Peters said. “Our plan was to foul him, but Zaruba and Bormann kept stalling up front. They were coached great by Beck there. They executed at the end.”
After Preston ran more than a minute off the clock, Andresen got the ball and was immediately fouled. He made one free throw. Marquette missed a shot at the other end.
Preston’s Logan Wilhelm grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made one free throw.
Trailing by three with about 10 seconds left, the Mohawks got the ball to the man who shot them back into the game, Peters.
“I came around a screen and fired it up there,” Peters said of the attempt at tying the game. “It was right on. I just didn't have enough push behind it. It came up short.”
Wilhelm grabbed the rebound, was fouled and again had a chance to ice the game. He again made one free throw, this time making it a two-possession game.
“I was thinking, 'I've got to make at least one of these,'” Wilhelm said. “I treat it like a play in practice and just shoot it.”
Preston shot 5-of-12 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, including missing the front end of two one-and-ones. The Trojans were 7-of-18 for the game and Marquette was 1-of-8.
“The main thing I'm going to (say) is we could have made it a lot easier on ourselves if we made some free throws,” Beck said. “Of course, they didn't do so well, either.”
Wilhelm led Preston with 20 points, 16 in the first half.
“I tried to just play my game,” Wilhelm said. “It doesn't matter who is on me.”
Zaruba scored 19, 10 in the third quarter and eight in the first quarter.
“My teammates were looking for me,” Zaruba said. “No one was really guarding me. I was just hitting the open shot.”
But Preston’s second-leading scorer, Bormann, was held to just six points.
“It's always good to have people step up when they're shutting down one of our scorers,” Zaruba said.
“This a group that if somebody shuts down Colton, that doesn't mean they're shutting the team down,” Beck said. “We've got a lot of guys who can score. I told Colton and he's glad, too, that Danny Schroeder is done guarding him. He's 6-4, has long arms and great quickness. As Colton says, the main thing is he's so smart that he doesn't leave Colton. A lot of guys leave Colton when we penetrate. Danny doesn't leave him. He stays right on him and makes it really hard.”
On Preston’s first possession, Sturm jumped into the passing lane and stole the ball. He finished a fastbreak layup to put Marquette ahead 2-0. Wilhelm scored 39 seconds later and Zaruba scored 59 seconds after that to start a 9-3 run. Preston led the rest of the game.
“Coach always tells us to get off to a good start right away because that's what's going to win ballgames,” Wilhelm said.
After the game, Beck grabbed the microphone and said that he and Squires had been friends for many years and he didn’t want Squires’ last game as a coach to be a loss. Then Beck asked if the two could coach the Big East all-stars together against the Cedar Valley Conference all-stars, and Squires agreed.
“We’re going out on top with the greatest coach I’ve ever had in Squires,” Peters said. “That was a class act by Beck there at the end.”
PRESTON 53, MARQUETTE CATHOLIC 49
MARQUETTE (15-8) — Isaac Sturm 5-16 0-2 11, Tanner Scheckel 1-7 1-2 3, Kendall Steines 1-5 0-0 2, Mathias Peters 7-13 0-2 20, Tommy Draus 1-5 0-0 2, Danny Schroeder 5-13 0-2 11, Brody Moore 0-2 0-0 0, Shane Weber 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-68 1-8 49.
PRESTON (20-3) — Chase Zaruba 7-13 2-4 19, Craiton Andresen 2-3 2-3 7, Ethan Carstensen 0-2 0-0 0, Colton Bormann 2-4 0-1 6, Colin Larson 0-0 1-5 1, Logan Wilhelm 9-12 2-5 20, Brett Earles 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-35 7-18 53.
Marquette 12 12 9 16 — 53
Preston 14 13 18 8 — 49
3-point goals — Marquette 8-25 (Peters 6-10, Schroeder 1-3, Sturm 1-8, Draus 0-1, Steines 0-3); Preston 6-10 (Zaruba 3-5, Bormann 2-2, Andresen 1-1, Carstensen 0-2). Total fouls — Marquette 20; Preston 11. Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Marquette 41 (Schroeder 12); Preston 33 (Wilhelm 9, Andresen 7, Bormann 7). Assists — Marquette 11 (Sturm 5); Preston 12 (Larson 6). Steals — Marquette 1 (Sturm); Preston 4 (Andresen 2, Larson 2). Blocks — Marquette 1 (Schroeder); Preston 5 (Wilhelm 4). Turnovers — Marquette 4; Preston 11.