ROCK FALLS – After hanging tough on the road and losing by a dozen points to Winnebago earlier this season, the Rock Falls' Rockets' rematch with the Indians at Tabor Gym was a different story Saturday night.
Winnebago rode a 30-point third quarter to change the game from a manageable deficit for Rock Falls into a blowout, as the Indians cruised to an 83-46 Big Northern West victory.
The Rockets (5-15, 1-6) dug themselves a hole early on, a tough one to dig out of facing a team with a height and shooting advantage. The Indians made nine shots form behind the 3-point arc, and shot 56 percent from the field, compared to Rock Falls' four 3s and 34 percent shooting.
"We played them to a 10-point game back a month-and-a-half ago, so our kids weren't scared," said Rocket coach Brad Bickett. "We just came out and didn't make any shots. You have to make some shots if you are going to compete."
Winnebago (18-4, 7-1) started the game with a 13-2 run, thanks in part to sophomore post player Brandon Suggs, who didn't miss a shot from the field. The Rockets, on the other hand, went 3-for-15 from the field in in the first quarter.
A full-court press by the Indians was fairly ineffective, thanks to crafty ballhandling and vision by Rock Falls senior Austin Donoho. This prevented the game from getting out of hand early, as he kept his composure against the Indians' length and athleticism.
"It was a team effort," said Donoho, "and we just came up short tonight.
"We have some things to improve on, and the good thing is we can come back Monday and work hard."
Despite the Rockets' comeback efforts after halftime, poor shooting once again haunted them early in the third quarter. Tight defense forced Winnebago into three straight turnovers, and Rock Falls converted them into good offensive possessions. Each one resulted in bunnies, but unfortunately, all three rimmed out and turned good possessions into empty ones. More importantly, it allowed the Indians to maintain their lead.
"That would have cut it to a 10- or 12-point game," said Bickett, "and could make us feel like we could get this corner turned. But when you miss those shots, it affects your defensive effort a little bit. And they're good too. Really good.
"With only a couple weeks left, we have to stay upbeat. We have some time, and we have some work left to do. We'll get back here Monday and see if we can get better."
After that stretch, junior DeLundre Dixon took over for the Indians. He used his speed to get open layups in transition, in a third quarter where he went 6-for-7 from the field and scored 13 points. It also helped to transform a 16-point lead into a 30-point margin for the Indians heading into the fourth, ultimately putting the game out of reach for the Rockets.