OTTAWA — On a night Marquette Academy honored senior basketball players Sean Kissel, Jalen Flavel and Gabe Amicon prior to the opening tip of Tuesday's game, it was a 12th-grader from Newark that stole the show when the contest got underway.
Norsemen senior guard Nate Christian poured in a game-best 30 points, including a half dozen baskets from beyond the arc, grabbed five rebounds and picked up a pair of steals to help Newark (13-15) run away with a 60-27 victory over the Crusaders (13-13).
Christian's 14 first-half markers and a Newark defense that held the hosts to just 4-of-22 (18%) shooting while forcing 11 miscues in the opening 16 minutes helped the Norsemen to a 10-2 first-quarter advantage that extended to 28-11 at halftime and a 48-23 cushion heading to the fourth.
"We just played really good defense, and that's what we've done the past few games," said Newark coach Rick Tollefson, his club coming off a runner-up finish at last week's Little Ten Conference Tournament. "Indian Creek, we played solid defense the opening quarter and a half, but it just got away from us because we turned the ball over and let them score on us easy in transition. We've done a really good job in the half-court, and I feel we did again tonight. If we ever really get hot (shooting the ball), we're going to be dangerous.
"We still need to step things up on the offensive end and get scoring from others. What did we miss, three or four layups? And we have to be able to knock down those kick-out 3s when they are wide open. Every one of these kids makes a high percentage from out there in practice, we just have to do it in games."
The game opened with hoops by Newark's Jacob Chapman and Marquette's Kissel (seven points), but the Norsemen closed out the stanza with a triple by Alex Tollefson (nine points, six rebounds), plus a rebound deuce and trey by Christian.
In the second, seven points by Christian and four by Grandon Mitchell more than offset a 3-pointer each from MA's Lucas Hoffman and Nate Nelson.
"You have to give Newark all the credit, they kicked our butts tonight, and No. 15 (Christian) just killed us," said Marquette coach Todd Hopkins. "They played very well, and I was very impressed with them. They really bounced back after the Indian Creek game last Friday and came in here guns-a-blazing. They physically took it to us, and we just backed off for whatever reason.
"This game was lost in the first two quarters. We had a decent third, but the first half was the key to the game."
The teams traded points for much of the third frame — Christian adding a trio of 3s and a pair of free throws —before Newark closed things out with an 8-0 burst, then outpointing the hosts 12-4 in the final eight minutes.
"Sean, Jalen and Gabe are all great kids," said Hopkins of his seniors. "They all three come to practice every day, bust their butts and do whatever they can to help this team."
Newark travels to Shabbona on Friday night for an LTC rematch against the AP Class 1A No. 2 Timberwolves, before returning on Saturday to take on 1A No. 10 East Dubuque at the IC Shootout.