GENOA – Rock Falls kept creeping back into the game and Genoa-Kingston kept inching away, only for the Rockets to come firing back.
Finally, Jake Oates hit the dagger that sparked the Cogs to a 67-56 win Thursday in a Big Northern Conference battle.
The Cogs (11-3, 2-0) led by as much as 32-16 late in the second quarter, but the Rockets (6-10, 0-3) cut the lead down to 51-49 after a three-point play by Timmy Heald to end the third quarter. But Oates, who finished with 25 points, drained a 3-pointer 7 seconds into the fourth quarter, and the Rockets were never within a single shot again.
“That gave us a lot of energy,” Oates said. “It wasn’t just us. It got the whole stadium hyped. We got more energy from that and they kind of folded from that.”
That 3-pointer was the last time Oates scored, but the Cogs were just heating up in the frame. They scored 12 of the first 15 points of the fourth to open a 62-53 lead with 2:53 left.
“It kind of reminded us how good of a team we are,” Genoa-Kingston coach Ethan Franklin said of Oates’ shot. “We stopped their run and realized we had a few in our bag overall.”
The Rockets fought their way back into the game behind the hot hand of Ayden Goff, who was 5 for 7 from long range and finished with a team-best 17 points.
“He got hot and he can. He’s a very good shooter,” Rock Falls coach Zack Sandrock said. “We got him some open looks, we started moving the ball. The offense flowed and we started knocking down shots.”
After trailing by 16, the Rockets were down, 34-26, at the break and got to within five early in the third.
“We started off slow but I told the boys we’ve just got to grind through the calls, grind through everything,” Sandrock said. “The boys did that. We had a slow first quarter but we came back, played good defense the way we’ve been preaching. I thought we played well in spurts.”
Reagan Hicks had a big game off the bench for the Rockets, scoring 14 and grabbing six rebounds. Booker Cross scored 11 and added four steals, while Gavin Sands had a game-best 10 rebounds.
For Genoa-Kingston, Alec Golembiewski added 15 points and Josh Bunting had 12 off the bench to go with four steals. Eagen Reams scored 11 with three steals. Colin Nesler and Oates led the Cogs with six rebounds each.
Franklin said he was impressed with how Oates played inside, making his first six two-point attempts and shooting 12 of 17 for the game including 3 for 6 from long range.
“He did a great job of attacking the basket,” Franklin said. “Alec and Colin draw a lot of attention and Jake does a great job playing off of that and finding his opportunities when they’re there. He put a ton of pressure on their defense and a lot of pressure on the referees to make calls cause he kept getting to the basket.”
Nesler spent most of the game in foul trouble, but played most of the fourth after picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter.
He had some big fourth-quarter plays even with the four fouls, including drawing a charge and coming up with a block in the final 3 minutes.
“Unfortunately Colin is used to playing with foul trouble,” Franklin said. “But he knows our expectations in that situation. He gambled on trying to take a couple charges there and fortunately for us it went our way.”