It was an imperfect game, but it had plenty of forever moments.
Marquette survived a 38-29 rebounding deficit that included 14 offensive boards allowed. The Lady Blazers withstood despite the fact that they didn’t shoot their first free throw until Vincennes Rivet had attempted 17. They persevered with Sophia and Emma Nolan limited to 22 and 19 minutes played, respectively, due to early foul trouble.
But after 32 minutes of hallmark defense and a balanced effort, Marquette seized its first state championship in program history, overthrowing the Lady Patriots 38-31 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Marquette had to dig itself out of an early hole as the Lady Patriots closed the first quarter on an 8-2 run to grab an 11-6 lead.
Needing that lift, the Lady Blazers leaned on a familiar source – their defense. Marquette limited Rivet to 1-of-10 shooting in the second stanza while its offense rattled off a 9-0 run. Morgan Crook scored all five of her points in the second while Sophia Nolan amassed four before receiving her third foul.
The Lady Blazers commandeered a 17-13 halftime lead. Nolan had 10 points and five boards at the break. She finished with a team-high 12 points and seven rebounds.
With Emma and Sophia Nolan both with three first-half fouls, head coach Katie Collignon relied on Claire Salyer and Ally McConnell right out of the gate in the second half.
Salyer answered the bell with eight points, two rebounds, and a steal in the third quarter alone while McConnell smothered three boards and distributed an assist on an Emma Nolan layup.
Rivet was set to close the third quarter on a 7-0 game-tying surge, but Salyer popped a three from the wing in Marquette’s last possession of the period, nudging the Lady Blazers ahead 27-24 with eight minutes remaining.
Emma Nolan logged the first four points of the final frame as both teams traded scoring plays. Marquette saw its lead go from one to three, to two, to four all in a matter of 100 seconds.
Rivet’s Grace Waggoner knocked down a pair of free throws at the 2:16 mark to tie the game at 31-all.
The Lady Blazers recaptured the lead on the ensuing possession by virtue of a Sophia Nolan layup assisted by Emma. It proved to be the game-winning bucket as Marquette’s defense stymied the Lady Patriots the rest of the way.
Trailing by two, Rivet was forced to commit four consecutive fouls to elevate the Lady Blazers into the bonus.
With 40 seconds left to play, Emmery Joseph stepped up to the charity stripe and calmly sank a pair of free throws that stretched the lead to 35-31.
Tia Tolbert misfired on a layup attempt on Rivet’s next trip down the court. Sophia Nolan grabbed the carom, then dished it to Crook, who found Emma Nolan for a breakaway basket that sent the Marquette faithful into hysterics with 21 seconds remaining. It was a forever moment.
Salyer, the second-half hero, hit the front-end of a 1 and 1 with 12 seconds to go that made it a three-possession game. Salyer’s make allowed Collignon to exhale and the Lady Blazer bench to begin its celebration. It was a forever moment.
As the clock crawled towards zeroes, Crook wrestled the ball away on Rivet’s final offensive possession. Jubilation overcame her face as, with two seconds left, the ecstasy of the program’s first state championship in school history hit her. It was a forever moment.
And as they had done the last three Saturdays, the Lady Blazers performed net-cutting duties. Senior Amani Corral, sporting a gigantic smile even by her standards, on one end. Senior Mackenzie Marovich, having just completed a fabulous career bookended with her school-record 107th game in a Marquette uniform, on the other. It was a forever moment.