ROCK FALLS – It’s not too often a team goes into the locker room for halftime with a 15-point lead and is displeased with the way they played in the first half.
Despite forcing 21 turnovers and limiting Stillman Valley to just 4-for-19 shooting through the first two quarters, the Rock Falls Rockets felt they let a lot of opportunities slip away Friday night at Tabor Gym.
A more focused team hit the court in the third period, and the Rockets proceeded to pull away for a 52-20 Big Northern West win.
“With all the steals, runouts and chances to score, it felt like we should be up by 30, not 15,” sophomore forward Bailey Schrader said of Rock Falls’ 25-10 halftime margin. “The first half, we didn’t play so hot on offense, and it felt good to come out and start hitting our layups and executing better in the third quarter.
“It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. Our goal was to win our last two [regular-season] games, and we’re halfway there.”
The Rockets (12-14, 5-6) nabbed 13 steals in the first 16 minutes, but couldn’t capitalize on most of them thanks to 11 turnovers of their own.
But even with the offensive struggles, Rock Falls still finished with 15 points off Cardinal turnovers, and 15 more off second-chance opportunities. The Rockets’ 35.5 percent shooting from the field (22-for-62) was heads and shoulders better than Stillman Valley’s 16.7 percent (8-for-48).
The Cardinals (3-23, 0-11) coughed up 33 turnovers in the game, with 31 of them coming in the first three quarters before Rock Falls emptied its bench for basically the entire fourth quarter.
“Our defense was great tonight,” Schrader said, “and we were really focused on picking things up and playing better on the offensive end in the second half.”
Rock Falls’ 1-3-1 trapping zone gave Stillman Valley fits. The Cardinals missed all 17 of their 3-point attempts, most of which were hurried by Rocket defenders, and could never find any kind of rhythm in their half-court offense.
“We’re not great at a lot of things,” Rock Falls coach Craig Mammosser added, “but what is usually great is the effort the girls give. Our defensive pressure was tremendous tonight, with Aubree [Johnson] up top and Linsey [Brown] shooting the gaps, and everybody getting in the passing lanes.”
Rock Falls’ game plan was simple: pound the ball into the post on offense, pressure the perimeter passers on defense, and run the Cardinals out of the gym. With a half-dozen Stillman girls playing in both the sophomore and varsity games, the Rockets felt like they could wear down the Cardinals.
Schrader scored 12 of her 16 points in the first half, and Rock Falls assisted on 10 of its 11 first-half field goals – and 17 of 22 in the game. The Rockets held Stillman Valley without a field goal for the entire third period, outscoring the Cardinals 19-2 in the frame.
“The most disappointing thing to me was that we gave the girls the freedom to run and run and run tonight, and we just didn’t take advantage of it in the first half,” Mammosser said. “We missed out on so many opportunities early on, but we stuck to the plan and had a lot of fun playing defense tonight.”
Johnson had seven points and three steals for Rock Falls, while Brown finished with five steals, four rebounds and three assists. Morgan Mammosser added six points, four assists, four steals and three boards, while Dallas Clevenger matched those six points.
No Stillman Valley player scored more than four points. Shannell Boettcher led the way with four points, 10 rebounds, three steals and a block.