ROCK FALLS – There were a lot of shots fired up.
Some fell, but many didn't during Saturday's game between the Lutheran Crusaders and the Rock Falls Rockets at Tabor Gym.
Lutheran got more to fall, on the way to defeating the Rockets 61-28.
Neither team shot the ball well, but one key advantage that the Crusaders had was height. Their starters were, on average, 3 inches taller than Rockets' starters.
That height difference might not seem like a lot, but the long wingspans of the Lutheran girls provided a nuisance to the Rockets' shooters on the defensive end. Rock Falls was held to 20 percent shooting from the field.
On the defensive side for the Rockets, the Crusaders' height beat the athleticism and quickness of the Rockets' guards. Lutheran was able to execute its offense without much of a hassle, and often found open shots. If the Crusaders missed, second- and third-chance opportunities were not uncommon.
"Well, we wanted to pressure the basketball," Rockets coach Craig Mammosser said, "and not allow them easy opportunities at the offensive end because of the size difference that they did have. We needed to move the basketball and execute with the ball on offense coming in. We wanted to set a lot of screens, and we just did none of that."
Rock Falls junior Chelsi Blair hit a pair of free throws after Lutheran coach Joni Larson was assessed a technical foul for being out of her coaching box to get the Rockets within one with 4:28 remaining in the first quarter. Lutheran then closed out the the quarter on a 10-0 run to make the score 16-5 Crusaders.
A balanced Lutheran attack in the second quarter ultimately doomed the Rockets. The Crusaders rattled off 26 points, compared to the Rockets' 14.
A big factor in extending the lead was their length. Many of the Rockets' shots were affected, and the offense as a whole struggled as a result.
"We tried to move that ball," Rock Falls junior Bailey Schrader said. "Get around them and be faster, because we play with four guards and one post usually. It's hard having to play people that are a few inches taller than you, but we just have to move the ball better."
An acrobatic layup by Kara Nehkorn, who finished with a team-high 8 points, resulted in an and-one free throw, and appeared to give the momentum to the Rockets.
Lutheran quickly regained the momentum after an exchange of baskets with 3:50 remaining in the first half. A putback by Lutheran freshman Olivia Cattage marked the start of a 14-0 run that Rock Falls junior Bailie Smith ended by making free throws with 1 second remaining in the half. By that point, the deficit had increased by 12 points.
Rock Falls' defense improved after halftime, but its offense once again suffered.
"Our effort picked up a little bit," said Mammosser. "It did on the defensive end, at least. Offensively, we never got anything going all day. I don't know what we shot, but it had to be real ugly, a really ugly number for what we shot.
"We wanted to pressure the ball full court and get into the passing lanes. We tried to deny the pass into the post as much as we could, and it was just way too easy for them."
As the last stanza wore on, it proved to be the best one for the Rockets, as they scored seven to cancel out seven points allowed.
But the damage had already been done, as the length and height of the Crusaders was too much for the Rockets to handle.
"Well, it was hard, but you have to live up to the game," Schrader said. "They might've been taller than us, but we had to be strong down low. We are going to meet players that are taller than us later in the conference, and we just have to play to their level and not give up."