Marshall used a balanced offense to overcome Alex Illikainen's individual brilliance for Grand Rapids. Despite Illikainen's 31 points, Marshall pulled away from a 47-45 lead at 9 minutes to a 69-52 margin that was not quite as easy as it sounds.
Still Marshall's motion offense got it open shots all day long, and the Tigers made 60 percent (27-of-45) of those shots including 5-of-12 (42 percent) 3-point shots. Marshall also dominated the boards 27-14 including the offensive boards 9-2, and they won the battle of 2nd chance points 13-4.
From 47-45, Marshall scored on 11 of its last 12 possessions of the game, while Grand Rapids did not score inside of 4 minutes. Riley Sharbono led the Tigers with 23 points including 2 quick buckets that increased Marshall's lead from 49-45 to 53-45. Aaron Mathiowetz, the putative post, scored 14, 12 of them from 3-point range and added 7 assists. The Tigers other starters--Tanner Bukowski, Hunter Peterson and Austin Saugstad--added 21 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists. The Tigers got 20 assists on 27 buckets.
So I got my Austin-Marshall match-up, a rematch from a 1963 state tournament that many old-timers remember fondly as 1 of the most exciting of that era.
Player of the Day: Alex Illikainen
Marshall controlled play as the 1st half went on, and pulled away from a 16-all tie at 10:30 to lead Grand Rapids 36-26 at the half. The Tigers scored on 10-of-11 possessions after that, twice off the offensive glass and twice off the steal. Riley Sharbono broke lose for 13 points during the Marshall run, while Tanner Bukowski scored 3 times and Austin Saugstad and reserve C.D. Douglas twice each.
Alex Illikainen was the only consistent weapon for Grand Rapids, scoring 13 points and blocking 2 shots. But even his 6-7 size could not keep Marshall off the offensive boards where the Tigers had a 6-0 edge in rebounds and a 9-0 edge in 2nd chance points.