MQ girls basketball team uses heartbreaking loss as fuel for next year

INDIANAPOLIS - “This one stung a little bit more than we imagined it would,” remarked Katie Collignon, coach of Marquette Catholic High School girls basketball team, following the team's stunning loss in the 49th annual Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) Girls Basketball State Finals on Feb. 24.
The Blazers lost to Lanesville 51-43 in a tight game for the Class 1A championship at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Blazers finished the season 24-5 while repeat state champion Lanesville finished a 29-1.

The Blazers held a two-point lead going into the fourth quarter. After Lanesville took the lead, Marquette kept it within one score until just under one minute left in the contest.
“We kept it to a one-possession game. To be so close, we could taste it. We’ve been there before. We did it last week,” said Collignon, referring to the exciting finish to the semi-state championship game on Feb. 17.
Down one with nine seconds left in the semi-state final, Marquette brought the ball full court and got it to their talented freshman, Marissa Pleasant, who nailed a game-winning three-pointer as time expired. While last week’s game provided the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat hit hard one week later. “It overshadows that we made it this far. It was a heck of a run, but it’s going to sting for a bit,” said Collignon.
“I’m proud of my girls’ effort. They were tough,” added Collignon. “They’re such great kids, great students. I think they learned this season that hard work and determination will get you far in life.”
With only two seniors on the team, the majority of the squad will return next year. Collignon said people remarked about her young team, which includes a mix of largely freshmen, sophomores and juniors. “They’ve grown up so much and grown together. They’re one of the most close-knit groups I’ve ever had the pleasure to coach,” she said. “Watching them experience things for the first time together was very rewarding for me and for every one of them. It was a true blessing.”
Brad Collignon, Marquette’s athletic director, said that despite the team’s youth, they were battle-tested. “It goes to show that with talent, determination and some grit, you can play on the big stage. We’re very proud of this team for accomplishing what they did. It wasn’t an easy road.”  
The players and coaches credited the fans for their support. “Our fans have been absolutely great this whole way,” said coach Collignon.
Turnovers and missed free throws, both uncharacteristic of the team, were costly. “We beat ourselves. That’s the last thing you want to do at the end of the season, to say that we weren’t actually beaten, but we beat ourselves,” said Collignon.
Laniah Davis stated she was somewhat nervous going into the game. “I was more nervous because this is my last game as a sophomore, so I wanted to take it all in as much as I could.”
Brielle Jones, junior, didn’t battle nervousness but did encounter Lanesville’s 6’1” center, Shelby Allen. “She’s very physical and aggressive. I took a couple of hits, but I played through it,” Jones said.
Pleasant, the previous week’s hero, hit her first three three-pointer of the game to give Marquette a quick lead.
She said the team needs to put the would’ve, should’ve, could’ve thoughts behind them and focus on the future. “I think we had some dumb mistakes and turnovers. We’re losing two seniors, so we’ll be basically the same team. I think we can come back next year and win it.”
The rookie also described how she matured over the season. “Coming in as a freshman, the (veterans) really helped me to develop and feel comfortable in the gym,” Pleasant said.
She also said the family-like atmosphere helped mold the team. “We all came together as one. I think this is a great team. One hundred percent family. We know each other like the back of our hands, and I feel if we have any problems, even off the court, we can go to each other.”
Livia Balling, a junior, described the season as a blessing due to the closeness of the team. She spoke of the importance of learning from mistakes and focusing on correcting the little things. “We have to use this game as fuel for next year.”
Collignon told her team, “Remember this moment. Remember what a red medal feels like when we want the blue one. We know what it takes and how it feels to be here. Use it as fuel to come back stronger than ever.”
Pleasant heard her coach’s words loud and clear. “Making it this far is an accomplishment, but the biggest accomplishment would have been that first-place trophy,” she said. “We didn’t get it this year, but I see that big trophy in our future. I see it.”


Caption: Marquette's Laniah Davis drives to the basket past Lanesville's Ava Kerr as Marquette 's Natalie Robinson and Lanesville's Emma Davis battle for position during the IHSAA Class 1A girl's state basketball championship on Feb. 24 in Indianapolis. (Bob Wellinski photo)