MOUNT CARROLL – For a while, it looked like A.J. Sharp might shoot No. 4 Newman past No. 1 Rockridge.
Sharp put the Comets on his back early, scoring 12 first-quarter points and leading Newman to a seven-point second-quarter lead.
But the Rockets responded, as Bryan Heath and University of Wisconsin recruit Ethan Happ led Rockridge to a 62-50 win at the Manny's Pizza Shootout on Saturday night at West Carroll Middle School.
Thanks to Sharp's sharpshooting, the Comets (17-1) only trailed for 2 minutes, 22 seconds of the first half.
Sharp hit five of seven shots and scored 12 of Newman's 16 points in the first quarter, and the Comets led 16-10 heading to the second period.
Sharp hit his third 3-pointer to give Newman a 19-12 lead, it's largest, with 7:36 left in the first half.
"We got the ball inside and kicked it out for some easy looks," said Sharp, who scored a team-high 23 points. "I got in a rhythm."
Wisely, Rockridge (17-0) turned to the 6-foot-8 Division I recruit in the second quarter. Happ went 5-for-5 from the floor in the quarter for 10 points as the Rockets sliced the margin to 25-24 at the break.
With the score tied at 29, Rockridge finished the third quarter with a 10-3 burst to carry a 39-32 lead into the fourth quarter.
Newman, which was without shooting threat John Payan, who has been battling pneumonia, made it 39-35 on a bucket by Jacob Barnes with with 6:16 to play.
The Rockets scored the next six points, and led by at least six the rest of the way.
"They turned up the intensity on the defensive end, and we didn't as much," Sharp said. "John's out, so that makes it hard."
Heath scored a game-high 25 points. Happ added 18.
Rockridge was the lone team to beat Newman in football this past season before the Comets cruised to a state championship.
"We lost to Rockridge in football by 12 points. We got beat here by 12 points," Newman coach Ray Sharp said. "If we get the same end result and win state, I'll be real happy."
Happ and Newman sophomore Noah McCarty, who scored seven points, are members of the same travel basketball organization, Quad City Elite. Though they are at different age levels, they have practiced against each other.
"He's a great player. He's got a lot of upside," Happ said of McCarty. "He's young. He's still got some work to do, and he knows it. I definitely believe he has the potential to become [an NCAA Division I] player."
Rockridge 62, Newman 50
Star of the game: Bryan Heath, Rockridge, 25 points, 11 in 4th quarter
Key performers: A.J. Sharp, Newman, 23 points, 12 in 1st quarter; Ethan Happ, Rockridge, 18 points
Up next: Bureau Valley at Newman, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday