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Feeling regional: Marquette Redmen prepare for Grand Blanc after big win in Traverse City on Tuesday

Marquette’s Justin Jurmu, center, dives between Gladstone’s Cam Ballard, left, and Lucas Hughes to knock the ball loose in the fourth quarter of a high school basketball game held at the Barb Crill Gymnasium in Marquette on Feb. 20. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“Go out and enjoy this moment because you’ll never forget it.” — Brad Nelson, Marquette boys basketball coach, on his message to his team during the MHSAA Division 1 regional

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MARQUETTE — The Marquette Senior High School boys basketball team is feeling confident and proud right now — and for good reason.

The Redmen took down Midland 54-48 on Tuesday night in Traverse City for their first win in a regional game in almost two decades, getting them to a regional championship game for the fourth time in school history.

Even though he didn’t feel his team had its best performance, Marquette head coach Brad Nelson was happy with what his players accomplished in the MHSAA Division 1 regional round.

Marquette's Lincoln Sager, right, tries to cut off Petoskey's Ty Slater during the third quarter of their MHSAA Division 1 district tournament championship game played Saturday at the Barb Crill Gymnasium in Marquette. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

“We came out with a lot of energy,” he said. “Jumped on them pretty early, had a pretty comfortable lead. Kept expanding the lead and then for some reason, we just backed off the gas pedal. Lost our intensity on defense and before you know it, they clawed back into it and I had to call a timeout in the third quarter to kind of reset their focus.

“We didn’t play that well, to be honest with you. We probably could’ve won by 20 (points), but we played eight minutes of bad basketball and that’s kind of where the score was. But anytime you get a regional win, we’ll take it and move on to the next game.”

Marquette started hot and held a seven-point lead at the half, but Midland rallied in the third quarter to tie it 41-41 going into the fourth. However, Redmen senior Lincoln Sager knocked down a trey to start the quarter and Ty Lotterman scored some buckets down the stretch to help put the game away.

Now Marquette has an even bigger task ahead of it by taking on Grand Blanc at 7 o’clock tonight at Midland Dow High School. The Bobcats are one of the best teams in Division 1 and Nelson knows it’s not going to be easy to pull off an upset.

“They’re long, they got 6-(foot-)9 kids, 6-8 kids, 6-7 kids,” he said. “They’ve got shooters, they’ve got the 50th-ranked player in the nation. So if you want to call it ‘David vs. Goliath,’ I don’t know if I’d go that far, but there’s a lot of things that need to go right for us to win.

“But we’re going to just try to play at a pace that they’re uncomfortable with. They want to get up and down and have it be a layup drill and we’ve just got to beat their first two waves of pressure and try to make them uncomfortable for as long as possible.

“Just to kind of put some doubt in their head. If it works, great. If we panic, we’re going to be in trouble.”

Nelson also said that although his team is working hard and feeling confident about geting the upset, he also said the Redmen are having fun along the way.

“Definitely you want your players to feel confident with the game plan that you put in,” the 13th-year head coach said. “They’re enjoying the moment.

“I told them several times this week like we’re dealing with borrowed time and it feels like we’re playing with house money right now. Go out and enjoy this moment because you’ll never forget it, especially for the seniors. They’re going to talk about playing one of the best teams in the state until they’re 70 years old.

“Enjoy it. Just go out and enjoy it, but you’re not going to enjoy it if you don’t go out and work hard.

“So we’re just taking it all in. These kids, they’ve been through a lot and it’s mentally taxing for them what they’ve been through the last year and they’re enjoying this moment, I can tell you that.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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