ROCK FALLS – Aubree Johnson's stat line Friday night against Dixon isn't going to wow anyone. But the Rock Falls senior was still tabbed as the player of the game by her coach and teammates.
Johnson's cross country background came in handy against the Duchesses, as she chased standout Brooke Bailey all over the court at Tabor Gym in a 36-24 Rockets win.
Bailey did score a team-high 14 points, but did it on 5-for-23 shooting and never got into a rhythm.
"Before the game, my coaches told me to focus on her and nothing else," said Johnson, who had three rebounds and a steal. "She was the main priority for us, because she's their point-scorer, and we couldn't let her get loose."
"Aubree is the player of the game, our MVP tonight," added senior guard Morgan Mammosser, a sentiment echoed by her uncle, coach Craig Mammosser. "She was phenomenal, played her heart out, and we were able to shut Dixon down."
Bailey did shake Johnson a few times throughout the game, but even when she found a rare open look at the hoop, she was forced to hurry her shots because of a converging Rocket defense. When Bailey handled the ball, Rock Falls switched every screen designed to get her open; every time she turned the corner, another Rocket was waiting for her.
"Surprisingly, it wasn't as frustrating as usual," said Bailey, who also had six rebounds and a steal. "I guess I'm just so used to it that it doesn't bother me anymore. My shots were flat tonight, but it is our fourth game this week, so that's no surprise."
Neither offense got much of anything going. Dixon shot 24.4 percent from the floor (10-for-41) and Rock Falls shot at a 26.2-percent clip (11-for-42), and the teams combined for scoring droughts of more than 3 minutes in the second and fourth quarter and a 4-minute scoreless stretch in the third period.
Jordan Giddings' post bucket right out of halftime put Rock Falls (2-2) ahead 18-12, but Kari Wolfe and Bailey answered with scores in the lane. After Giddings (6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists) scored on a putback, Wolfe hit another shot to pull to within 20-18 with 4:59 left in the third quarter.
But that's where the score stayed until Morgan Mammosser hit a free throw and Bailey Schrader (4 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block) scored inside in the final 43 seconds of the period.
Dixon had a chance to take the lead, as Wolfe hit a 3 from the top of the key at the 2:41 mark, but the swish was called off when she was whistled for traveling.
Bailey's 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter pulled the Duchesses (1-3) to within 23-21, then Jessica Wind's putback pushed the Rockets' lead back to 25-21 with 6:30 to play.
But after another long scoring drought – this one 3 minutes, 20 seconds long – Rock Falls put the game away from the free-throw line. Morgan Mammosser hit nine of her 12 free throws in the final 2:19, turning a close affair into a double-digit victory.
"I think I made more free throws tonight than I did all last year combined," said Mammosser, who went 12-for-16 from the line and finished with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. "I was happy to have the ball in my hands at the end, and I like working on my free throws. Luckily, they were going in tonight."
Despite the loss, the Duchesses took some solace in the fact that they stayed close with some tenacious defense until they had to start fouling late.
"We busted out butts on defense tonight, and that's reassuring," Bailey said. "If I mess up or miss some shots, I know my teammates are working hard to get a stop on the other end. If we keep playing good defense, our offense will come along and our shots will start to fall."
Sauk Valley Shootout
Rock Falls 36, Dixon 24
Star of the game: Morgan Mammosser, RF, 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
Key performers: Brooke Bailey, Dixon, 14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal; Jordan Giddings, RF, 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists; Bailey Schrader, RF, 4 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block
Up next: Sauk Valley Shootout, at Rock Falls – Dixon vs. Sherrard, 5 p.m.; Rock Falls vs. Sterling, 8 p.m.