FARMINGTON -- Down by as much as 12 points at various times in Thursday's Class 2A Farmington Sectional semifinals, the Rockridge Rockets still had plenty of fight left in them.|
Trailing Minonk Fieldcrest by 10 entering the fourth quarter, Rockridge opened the period with a 10-0 run, capped when junior center Ethan Happ hit two free throws to tie the game at 41-41. But although the Rockets tied the game once more, they could never gain the upper hand as the Knights prevailed 56-52.
Despite Happ's 25 points, 10 rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals, the Rockets saw their season end at 23-5 after making their first boys' basketball sectional appearance in 10 years. Rockridge's only lead Thursday was 2-0 on a Happ bucket to open the game.
"I thought we played a little tight, and let the situation get to us a bit,'' said Rockridge coach Toby Whiteman. "We had a good year, and I'm extremely happy with our seniors -- Nyle Stevens, T.J. Henry, Matt Klundt, Dakota Horton and Logan Green. With their leadership, our guys bought into their roles and did what they had to do.
"To me, it's about the whole team, and these guys did what it took to be successful. This loss hurts, but we're making steps. I know it won't do our seniors any good, but I hope we can make the step to the next level (in 2013-14).''
Instead of the Rockets getting a rubber match with their West Central North rival Monmouth-Roseville (25-4) in tonight's 7:30 championship game, it will be the Knights and their 25-5 mark taking on the Titans for the second straight year. Last season, Fieldcrest prevailed in double overtime to reach the super-sectional.
The Knights got off and running early when senior guard Kyle Crowley -- who transferred from Pontiac prior to this season -- knocked down three first-quarter 3-pointers to fuel an 11-0 run that led to Fieldcrest going up 15-6 after one. A Brady Sanders trey stretched that lead to 20-8 early in the second quarter before Rockridge regained its bearings.
"I was just confident and aggressive," said Crowley, who finished with 20 points on 8-of-8 shooting, including four treys. "They kept getting me the ball, and I kept on shooting."
Happ hit on four straight shots, part of a run in which he hit seven consecutive field goals, capping it with a steal and dunk that was followed by a Henry bucket with 52 seconds left on the clock that closed the gap to 22-18 by halftime.
"We weren't going to give up, no matter how much we were down by," said Happ. "Our senior group is amazing with their leadership, and they kept telling us we were going to come back."
However, Fieldcrest blunted the Rockets' momentum when it hit its first six shots of the second half to go up 34-22. Once again, Rockridge battled back, with a Stevens 3-ball helping it get back within single digits before Sanders scored in the final seconds to make it a 41-31 game.
That's when the Knights went cold and the Rockets heated up. Unfortunately, a pair of good chances to retake the lead midway through the final quarter went by the wayside. Down 48-47, Bryan Heath missed a 3-point try, and then Henry missed from in close.
"At that point in the game, we didn't need those shots," Whiteman said of that key sequence.
Although the Rockets' sectional final bid would ultimately sour down the stretch, the prospects for next year are no less brighter.
"It just didn't turn out the way we wanted to (Thursday). We had too many mental mistakes,'' said Happ, whose efforts were augmented by eight points each from Heath and Stevens, with Henry adding six points, six boards and two steals. "But we used our loss in the regional finals last year to fuel us to this point, and we'll do the same next year."