Ryleigh Grott opened her senior campaign with a 21-rebound, eight-point performance, but Marquette fell 51-47 at Kankakee Valley in Tuesday evening’s season opener.
The defeat came in what was originally slated to be the club’s fifth game of the season. However, a two-week hiatus toward the end of October prompted the postponement of Marquette’s first four contests. While at times it felt surreal that, in fact, a real game was being played, the 90 or so minutes provided a couple hundred masked onlookers with a welcome distraction from the pandemic.
The host Kougars dispatched an active full-court press that resulted in several first-quarter turnovers for the Blazers. Ana Blakely recorded the first field goal of the 2020-21 season with a trey from the right wing, but KV answered with a 22-4 run to close the opening period.
Marquette adapted to the Kougar press in the second quarter and looked like a much different team. Freshman Shena Fleming jumpstarted the Blazer offense with seven points while sophomore Sade Anderson Hernandez added five as Marquette outscored Kankakee Valley 18-10 in the second to make it a 32-25 tilt at halftime.
A margin that peaked at 15 points in the first quarter dissolved to just three for Marquette following a Grott putback in the final minute of the third. Fleming and senior Izabel Galindo landed threes in the stanza.
KV thrust its lead back to 10 points midway through the final frame, but the Blazers again persevered to within striking distance late. A missed layup in the waning seconds would have made it a two-point contest, but Marquette still had to commit three fouls to elevate the Kougars into the bonus.
Grott, who squeezed her 10th rebound with 4:44 still remaining on the second-quarter clock, finished with a career-high 21 boards. As a junior, she averaged 10.5 rebounds per game.
Fleming finished with 11 points to lead the Blazers in scoring. Blakely registered seven points, eight rebounds, three assists, and four steals.
Sophomore Ruth Bean was highly efficient, accounting for seven points, seven boards, and four assists in her Marquette debut.
The Blazers (0-1) return to the road Thursday when they travel to Gary West Side for a 6 pm varsity-only affair.