EDGINGTON -- The difference between buckle-your-seatbelt time and a double-digit victory on Tuesday night took nine possessions to decide.|
In that stretch, the Rockridge boys' basketball team handled its business.
When a comfortable lead vanished early in the third quarter, the Rockets regained their touch to construct a game-sealing run that was both impressive and dominant. From there, Rockridge coasted to a 60-33 win over Alleman.
"These kids are showing some toughness this year," Rockridge coach Toby Whiteman said. "Not that we didn't show toughness last year, but it's more of a toughness and confidence. These kids expect to be competitive in games like this and expect to win every game they play."
If there is a switch the Rockets (14-2) need to flip to reach that level, they did so midway through the third quarter.
Once John Tracey completed a three-point play with 5:15 left in the third, Alleman (5-8) cut a 29-15 halftime deficit in half. Before Tracey's basket, the Rockets committed turnovers on their previous three possessions.
In their next nine possessions, they went on a 13-2 run.
Nyle Stevens' 3-pointer answered the three-point play, but Adam Hoogwerf hit two foul shots to pull Alleman within 34-26. Rockridge then scored the next 10 points to regain the double-digit lead after the Pioneers made things interesting.
The deficit never dipped below double digits again.
"We just picked it up defensively and really looked for good shots offensively," said Rockridge sophomore guard Bryan Heath, who scored six of his game-high 22 points in that 10-0 run. "We started running sets and running our zone offense a lot better. We were getting good passes inside for easy buckets."
Alleman could not muster any offense to match the Rockets. With Rockridge seemingly scoring at will toward the end of the third quarter, the Pioneers alternated turnovers and missed shots on eight consecutive possessions.
The empty possessions extended Alleman's losing streak to three games. In three out of their last five games, the Pioneers have not surpassed 35 points.
"We're at a crossroads right now," said Alleman coach Pat Rangel, who received 12 points from Tracey and 10 more from Hoogerwerf. "I'm optimistic about how we're going to be, but we have to get everybody on board, everybody working together. That's what I mean about the crossroads. Once we get there, we're going to be fine."
Right now, the Rockets are in a groove. Rockridge has won four consecutive games in the last week and never trailed on Tuesday night.
The second half was especially fluid as the Rockets, who received 12 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and four assists from junior forward Ethan Happ, shot 56.5 percent (13 of 23) from the field.
"There are so many things that this team is so good at," Whiteman said. "It's just the little things we really have to concentrate on to be the best team we can be. These kids want that."
At the same time, they realize something special is happening. The final 16 minutes proved it.
"That," Heath said, "was a lot of fun."
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