ROCK FALLS – Monday, Rock Falls took it to a young Dixon team. Tuesday, the Rockets made a senior-dominated Princeton squad look just as helpless.
A day after thrashing the Dukes by 31, Rock Falls rode a 20-2 third-quarter blitz to a 61-32 win over the Tigers at Tabor Gym on the second night of the Sauk Valley Shootout.
"Defense is our game. Defense wins championships," said the Rockets' Steven Armoska, who had game-highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds. "Usually we don't even work on offense in practice. We don't need to work on offense. Our defense is so good, we create points."
"Coach [Brad] Bickett has pushed and pushed that defense will win us games," said Rock Falls starter Austin Babcock, who scored just four points but was a force defensively with three steals. "We just go off of that, and the offense will come."
Armoska set the tone for the Rockets (2-0), scoring 10 points in the first quarter as Rock Falls built an early eight-point lead.
The Rockets upped the difference to a dozen at 24-12 on Armoska's fast-break bucket with 3:37 left in the first half.
Princeton (1-1) fought back and cut the margin to four twice in the final moments of the half. Rock Falls led 28-22 at the break.
The third quarter was all Rockets.
The only points Rock Falls surrendered in the quarter came on Josh Kieffer's field goal at the 5:02 mark. Kieffer led the Tigers with eight points.
Armoska muscled his way to his last seven points in the quarter as the Rockets extended to a 48-24 advantage.
Armoska's most impressive moments may have been when he twice volleyed the ball off the rim to himself before scoring.
"The more rebounds I get, the more I can score," he said.
Rock Falls' Jace Anderson knocked down three 3-pointers for nine points. Teammate Daegan Wharff came off the bench for eight points.
If the first two games are any indication, first-year coach Bickett and the Rockets may be a match made in hoops heaven.
"In the second half, we just got after it defensively," Bickett said. "That got our offense going. Our defense fuels our offense. We played great team defense and rebounded."
Star of the game: Steven Armoska, Rock Falls, game-highs of 21 points, 12 rebounds
Key performers: Jace Anderson, Rock Falls, 9 points on three 3-pointers; Josh Kieffer, Princeton, team-high 8 points
Up next: Sauk Valley Shootout at Sterling – Rock Falls vs Newman, 5 p.m.; Princeton vs. Sterling, 8 p.m.