STERLING – The Newman Comets and the Rock Falls Rockets had gone over a minute without scoring on Wednesday night with the score tied.
While it wasn't written in any rule book or called out by any players, everyone could feel that whoever made the next shot was going to win.
Newman had the ball with 40 seconds left, and sophomore Nolan McGinn gave it a try by driving to the hoop. Rock Falls senior Steven Armoska said "no way" with a clean stuff.
The ball deflected to Newman's Nate Terveer, who fired it right back toward the hoop. The ball bounced off the backboard and teammate Kyle Moore slashed in to grab it from the air. He came down, then went straight back up for two points with 30 seconds left.
The gut feeling at Musgrove Fieldhouse – site of three Sauk Valley Shootout games on Wednesday – proved to be true. Newman added two free throws to the advantage to defeat the Rockets 48-44.
"You don't want to be down or tied at that point," Moore said. "Once you get that lead, the pressure is off a little, and it's put on to the other team. That was a huge moment in tonight's game."
The dramatics at the end didn't seem like they would be necessary in the first quarter.
Newman (2-1) jumped out to a 13-4 lead behind three 3-pointers from A.J. Sharp. The lead ballooned out to as many as 13 points in the second quarter.
"I think we didn't come out as hard as we needed to after having blow out wins against Dixon and Princeton the last two nights," Armoska said. "After half, I think we had a lot more intensity, but we have to do it from the start."
Intensity was a problem for the Rockets in the first half, but so was shooting. They went just 2-for-17 in the first quarter from the field and finished 7-for-32 in the half.
The missed shots allowed Newman to stay in their staple defense – the 1-3-1 zone – the entire game.
"I am really proud of the way the team played tonight," Newman coach Ray Sharp said. "The team defense was outstanding today. The kids recognized the game plan and executed it tonight."
Newman led 26-15 at half, and the Rockets started chipping away at the lead in the third quarter with better shooting and pressure defense. By the end of the third quarter, Rock Falls (2-1) trailed by just four at 35-31.
Leading the rally was Armoska and senior guard Jace Anderson.
Anderson scored five straight points to pull the Rockets within one point at 37-36. After Micah Trancoso scored to put Newman up three, Armoska had back-to-back buckets to give Rock Falls its first lead at 40-39 with 5 minutes to play. It stayed a one possession game the rest of the way.
Moore finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. McGinn had 10 points and seven rebounds. Guard Lucas Terveer had a nice night on both ends of the court. He had five points, six rebounds and four assists.
"We need Lucas to be that guy that handles the ball when the pressure is on," Sharp said. "He's the guy we trust to stay under control and execute the offense. He was a big reason that we were able to handle the pressure that Rock Falls is able to put on teams."
Anderson finished with 18 points for Rock Falls. Armoska had 13 points and nine rebounds.
Star of the game: Kyle Moore, Newman, 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks
Key performers: Jace Anderson, Rock Falls, 18 points, 7 rebounds; Steven Armoska, Rock Falls, 13 points, 9 rebounds; Nolan McGinn, Newman, 10 points, 7 rebounds
Up next: Rock Falls vs. Morrison (at Sterling), 8 p.m. today; Newman vs. Princeton (at Sterling), 5 p.m. today