Back home from the road, the Rock Island girls' basketball team showed just how anxious it was to resume defense of its Western Big 6 Conference championship.|
Welcoming Quincy to town Thursday night, the Lady Rocks sprinted out of the starting blocks by scoring the game's first seven points, and that intensity never let up as Rocky overcame some spells of sloppiness to roll to a 68-48 victory over the Blue Devils.
"It was a bit of a sloppy game, but Quincy was trying to play hard and put the pressure on us," said Rock Island coach Thad Hoover, whose 17-2 club is 5-0 halfway through the Big 6 slate. "The biggest thing is that this was a conference game, and it's a big deal every time you play one of these. You only get 10 of them, so anytime you win, it's huge."
After closing their run at Bloomington-Normal's State Farm Holiday Classic with consecutive losses to Peoria Richwoods and Springfield, the Lady Rocks felt their holiday experiences only toughened them up for the conference stretch drive.
"What we learned," Hoover stated, "is that there are a lot of good teams out there. We didn't do anything wrong; we just got beat. I had no problems with our attitude and effort. Those are the things you want every time. You have those, and you have a good chance of winning."
Bringing the biggest effort for the Rocks on Thursday was sophomore center Mercedes Jackson. Hitting all but one of her six field-goal attempts and seven of 10 free throws, the 5-foot-11 Jackson powered her way to a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, game highs in both categories.
Harmonee Trice seconded Jackson with 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, while Shamia Clark and Cairece Allen each snared five rebounds.
"Down in Bloomington-Normal, all I could think about was conference. I think we were ready to go home and finish up conference play," said Jackson. "Tonight, I figured out how they play and used it to my advantage."
Ignited by a Carlee Hoover 3-ball for that game-opening 7-0 run, Rocky led from start to finish. Quincy closed the gap to 12-5, but then its senior center Jordan Fletcher was whistled for her second foul at the 3:24 mark. Subsequent treys by Hoover and Trice had the hosts up 19-6 after one.
Any hope the Blue Devils (9-7, 1-4 WB6) had of slicing into that deficit were dispelled as consecutive trifectas by Trice and Clark triggered an 8-0 spurt that put the Lady Rocks up by 18 points en route to a 31-17 halftime lead.
Defensively, Rocky was able to keep Quincy's top scorers, Fletcher and Arai'ya Dade, under wraps. Fletcher scored eight of her 13 points in the second half. Dade was held to just eight points, although she did contribute six boards and four steals.
"We knew they'd get some of theirs," said Hoover. "We just wanted to make sure they didn't get open, and we did a decent job of that."
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