The Rock Island girls' basketball team needed a statement game.|
The Rocks got just that Saturday at the Dearrel Bates Mississippi River Shooutout.
In a showdown of state-ranked squads from either side of the river, Rocky knocked off Assumption 75-70 in a classic game, giving Iowa's top-ranked Knights their first loss of the season.
Regarded as the top team in the Quad-Cities the past two seasons, and winning a pair of Iowa Class 2A state titles in that time, Assumption (8-1) led nearly the entire game until a clutch fourth quarter from the Rocks (18-2).
After stinging setbacks to state-ranked Peoria Richwoods and Springfield, in back-to-back games to close the State Farm Classic, the Rocks put a signature win on the first half of the season heading into next week's first state poll since the preseason.
Senior star Shavonne Brewer shone the brightest, scoring a game-high 26 points, and putting to rest any doubt she had hit a slump. Brewer also was a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line, six of them coming in the final two minutes of the game.
Mercedes Jackson also had a coming-out party of sorts, notching a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. It's not her first double-double, but doing so against an inside force the likes of which Rocky may not see the rest of the year is the impressive part.
Assumption has a pair of girls who tower at 6-foot-2 in Hailey Schneden and Danielle Cabel, and while Cabel finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, Jackson outplayed both, adding 3 blocks and 2 steals to her line.
"Since sixth grade, Mercedes has been to everything we've done," Rock Island coach Thad Hoover said. "She's talented and works extremely hard at getting better."
Another big reason Rocky picked up the win was an ability to make the 3-ball. Jacqueline Twing hit a trio of triples, while Carlee Hoover added two huge treys in the fourth quarter, both times giving Rocky the lead.
After Hoover's second 3-ball, the Rocks never relinquished the lead.
"(Assumption) likes to run, we like to run, its our style," Coach Hoover said. "We fought really hard in the second half."
It appeared as though Assumption lost a little steam in the waning moments, which isn't all that surprising considering 24 hours earlier they had to play a tough Mississippi Athletic Conference game against rival Pleasant Valley.
"This is going to be one of those games we look back on and saw we learned from it," Assumption coach Mallory Youngblood said. "Rock Island will wear you down."
The Knights had the ball and a chance to tie, trailing at 73-70 with less than 20 seconds to play, but couldn't get the ball to their star Kate Fennelly, who was guarded closely by Twing.
Instead, Danielle Moore drove the lane and missed a jumper. Jackson got the rebound.
"We're the underdogs trying to prove ourselves, they've won two state titles, and have earned being No. 1 in the Quad-Cities," Jackson said. "It was fun tonight, though. It was crazy. The crowds were going back and forth."
In a packed Black Hawk College gym, both fanbases knew the implications of the game and created an atmosphere not often found outside of March in girls' basketball.
Rocky trailed by as many as nine points twice, the latest coming at 43-34, before the Rocks went on an 20-10 run to end the third quarter.
Leading the Knights in scoring was Maddie Irmen with 17 points, while Fennelly (16) and Moore (12) also finished in double figures.
"This is really big for us, because they're the top-ranked team in Iowa," Brewer said. "This was a comeback for us."
The win also put a stamp on Illinois remaining undefeated in the shootout's history. Illinois is now 8-0-1 after winning five of the seven games on the day.
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