STERLING – Thanks to some suffocating defense, Rock Falls was able to double its pleasure in the season opener against Newman on Monday night.
The Rockets amassed 13 steals and caused 23 turnovers on their way to a 50-25 victory over the Comets in a Sauk Valley Shootout contest at Newman.
Rock Falls coach Craig Mammosser employed a man-to-man defense for the bulk of the game, and it worked to a tee.
"We were trying to run and jump to the next pass, and really rotate defensively," Mammosser said. "I think we did a very good job of that. We flustered them a little bit – sped them up. You don't always have to steal the ball. If you speed a team up enough, they're going to throw it away or they're going to throw it to you."
"We work on defense so much during practice," added senior guard Kara Nehrkorn, who led her team with four steals. "I think defense will be the main point of our game."
Nehrkorn scored all nine of her points in the first 3 1/2 minutes of play to stake Rock Falls to an 11-2 lead, and the Rockets were in control the rest of the way. Their lead was 18 points (29-11) by halftime, and ballooned to as many as 33 points (50-17) after a basket from reserve guard Bailie Smith with 4:15 remaining.
Newman closed with an 8-0 run the rest of the way to account for the final.
Bailey Schrader paced a balanced Rock Falls attack with 10 points, while Nehrkorn and Chelsi Blair added nine each. Seven players scored at least four points for Rock Falls.
"That's what you're going to see," Mammosser said. "These girls know coming in I want them to work their butts off for 3 or 4 minutes at a time, then we're going to sub and we're going to rotate, and then they're going to get their butts back in there and work for 3 or 4 minutes at a time."
Mary Alice Oswalt and Bree deLong each had five points for Newman, while Julie Hurd added four.
The Comets did own a 33-29 lead in the rebounding department, but other than that, not much went right. They were 9-for-44 (20.4 percent) from the field, made just 6 of 16 free throws and had just two assists, in addition to their ballhandling issues.
"We didn't react well to their pressure," Newman coach Jay Howell said, "and then when we did react well to it, we couldn't finish. They just kept pressuring and pressuring because we couldn't take advantage of any of their overplays. They just overwhelmed us."
Star of the game: Bailey Schrader, Rock Falls, 10 points, 5 rebounds
Key performers: Kara Nehrkorn, Rock Falls, 9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals; Mary Alice Oswalt, Newman, 9 rebounds, 5 points
Up next: Stillman Valley at Rock Falls; Newman at Sherrard, 7:30 p.m. today