Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2013, 11:42 pm

Defense helps Rockets fend off Rams in nonconference win

Comment on this story

By Terry Duckett, tduckett@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Riverdale's Drew Beale (50) is unable to stop before hitting into Rockridge's T J Henry (12) as he attempts to make a shot under the basket during the first quarter Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013.
EDGINGTON -- Aside from the fact that it was a nonconference game, Tuesday's boys' basketball matchup with Riverdale had many of the same aspects as Rockridge's West Central North meeting with Orion last Friday.

There was the sluggish start combined with a game opponent that battled to keep things close. There was a strong defensive stand in the second half and one big offensive quarter in the final 16 minutes. All of that which carried the Rockets past their league rivals also proved enough to fend off the Rams for a 62-52 victory.

"It was the same thing as Orion,'' said Rockridge coach Toby Whiteman, whose 19-2 club needed a 23-6 third-period run last Friday to prevail on the Chargers' home floor. "We started off slowly and allowed them to hang with us. Then, we came out and played well in the third quarter, got up and had a chance to put it away.''

After scoring the third quarter's final four points following a 3-pointer by Riverdale senior guard Jared Richmond that whittled Rockridge's lead to 34-32, the Rockets clamped down defensively to start the final period. In fact, Riverdale (12-11) was unable to attempt a field goal until Drew Beale's bucket at the 4:58 mark.

By that time, Rockridge had turned its 4-0 spurt to close the third into a 14-0 run that made it a 48-32 game. The hosts led by as much as 16 points, and the Rams couldn't get back within single digits after that.

"We held them to seven points in the third quarter, and that carried over to the fourth,'' said Whiteman, who got four steals each from T.J. Henry and Ethan Happ as his team forced the Rams into 16 turnovers, 12 in the second half.

Offensively, Happ delivered another double-double, going for 21 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore teammate Bryan Heath scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half to help Rockridge to a 29-25 halftime lead. He also had six boards, as did Henry (nine points).

Richmond was held in check after averaging 28.5 points over Riverdale's last six games, mustering just 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Mitchell Sand stepped up his game in reply with a game-high 22 points along with eight rebounds. Cole Solomon added six boards.

"Jared has carried us the last few weeks, and Mitchell had been in a bit of a rut,'' said Riverdale coach Jason Hendrix. "To see him catch the ball off the dribble and shoot, that was good to see. That was what stuck out for me.''

What also stuck out for Hendrix was the way his Rams competed with Class 2A's fourth-ranked club. Riverdale took its only lead late in the first period at 12-11 before a Henry bucket put the hosts up 13-12 after one. And after Rockridge went up 17-12 early in the second, the Rams fought back to tie the game three times before the Rockets closed the first half with a 6-2 run.

"That string of games when we were 2-8, we weren't working together,'' he said. "We've been playing better, and we know if we played well (Tuesday), we could stay with them. We played with them, except for that five-minute stretch in the second half where they outscored us 18-2. To go in and go toe to toe with them, I told the guys to take confidence from that.''