ROCK FALLS – Kara Nehrkorn did not start. That didn’t stop her from being the most influential player in the game.
The Rock Falls junior poured in a game-high 15 points, nine on three 3-pointers in the second quarter, to shoot the Rockets past Sterling 44-39 on the final night of the Sauk Valley Shootout on Saturday at Tabor Gym.
“That is the best game I’ve played so far this season,” Nehrkorn said. “They were playing help defense, so when the ball was on the other side of the court, there wasn’t anybody close to me. We just skipped it, and I was wide open.”
“Kara with her 3s, of my God. Her knocking down those 3s changed the momentum of the game,” said Rock Falls’ Morgan Mammosser, who scored eight of her 10 points in the second half.
Trailing 10-6 early in the second quarter, Rock Falls (3-2) used a 12-0 tear to take control. Jordan Giddings, a 6-foot-1 senior who scored eight of her nine points in the quarter, shook off two early fouls and scored a pair of inside buckets to start the burst.
Nehrkorn drained consecutive 3s from the left wing, Danica Fortune scored on the fast break, and Giddings scored down low to make it 20-10 with 4:07 left in the half.
Sterling (3-2) responded with a 7-0 run before Nehrkorn hit another 3 from the left wing. Giddings made it 25-17 at the break when she scored at the buzzer off an inbounds pass from Mammosser.
Five-foot-11 sophomore Bailey Schrader (8 points) hit a pair of inside baskets, and Mammosser knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner to give Rock Falls its largest lead of 13, 32-19, with 4:56 left in the third quarter.
Leading 39-28 early in the fourth quarter, the Rockets went cold, and Sterling suddenly heated up. The Warriors reeled off a 10-0 spurt to make it a one-point game, 40-39, with 1:23 remaining.
McKenna Pearson started the Sterling comeback with a pair of free throws and a fast-break bucket. Bailey Oetting converted another fast-break basket before Raquel Romano (9 points) knocked down her third 3-pointer.
After a Rock Falls free throw, Sterling’s Kiarra Harris, who had a team-high 12 points to go along with seven steals, five rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot, sank a jumper from the right elbow to make it 40-39.
Those were the last points the Warriors scored.
“Our defense was really slacking,” Harris said. “We didn’t decide to pick up our intensity until a certain point. We worked back in the game, which was good, because it could have been a bad loss.”
Schrader knocked down two free throws with 1:23 left before Sterling’s Stephanie Kester missed a 3-pointer. The Warriors came up with the rebound but turned the ball over.
Nehrkorn hit one of two free throws to make it 43-39 with 22 seconds left before another Sterling turnover. Nehrkorn again went 1-for-2 at the line with 15 seconds left to finish the scoring.
“Rock Falls played great,” Warriors coach Julie Schroeder said. “Every time they needed a loose ball, they got it. Every time they needed to make a shot, they got it.”
Star of the game: Kara Nehrkorn, Rock Falls, game-high 15 points, 11 in 1st half
Key performers: Kiarra Harris, Sterling, team-highs 12 points, 7 steals, 5 rebounds, 4 assists; Morgan Mammosser, Rock Falls, 10 points, 8 in 2nd half
Up next: Sterling at Rock Island, 7 p.m. Nov. 27; Rock Falls at Rockford Lutheran, 7:15 p.m. Nov. 30