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Close is starting to slow Rockets

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By Todd Martin

If this were the Rockets' horseshoe team, a state championship no doubt would be on the horizon.

Unfortunately, close doesn't count in basketball.

At 7-13 on the season, the Rockets have had some bad luck, some bad breaks and, honestly, some bad decisions.

Oh so close, oh so many times. The Rockets have lost 10 games by fewer than 10 points, and nine of those by fewer than 5. And only one time did they win a game by five points or fewer.

The team's average margin of victory in its seven victories is 12.3 points. The team's average margin of defeat is 7.3 points.

Close games have killed Shelby County this year.

A few of those games came down to bad luck -- a questionable call at Anderson County, a questionable no-call against North Oldham. Against Clark County the Rockets had stifled University of Kentucky commitment Vinny Zollo for 31 minutes and 56 seconds, but Zollo got open and hit the game-winner at the buzzer.

Heck, even in the opener the Rockets seemed snakebit. At Seneca, a winnable game, the Rockets got behind early, battled back but came up one-point short.

January is where things seem to have gone most sour.

The Rockets are 1-8 this month, the only victory against a now 11-8 Woodford County team on homecoming, a night when the Rockets were pumped from honoring former Mr. Basketball winners Mike Casey and Terry Davis.

But even that night it took overtime to win after the Rockets had blown a 10-point lead.

Line this team up against any of the nine teams they've played this month, and Shelby County looks better. Line them up individually, and maybe a few opponents stack up near the top.

But athletically, top to bottom, the Rockets haven't seen a team with as much athleticism since early to mid December.

It's a bad pass here and a forced shot there or a missed cutter here and an unchallenged jump shot there. Mental mistakes, each and every game, that continue to add up.

At the beginning of the year, the typical thought was, "This team is young, no seniors to rely on."

But now, 20 games into this season, all those juniors should be playing like seniors. Is that not what coaches and fans say about youngsters that start to get it, when it's started to click?

But at Shelby County, it seems those same mistakes keep getting in the way.

It might be a slow start, a late meltdown, or we've seen good first and fourth quarters bookend miserable second and third quarters.

When should we expect it to start to click?

SCHS Coach Mike Clark has said several times that he likes the improvement he's seeing in games and at practice, but it should be time to see it in the victory column.

With the inability to win one of these close games against a solid team, the Rockets' confidence could be waning.

If you continue to slip from all different angles, you may stop trying to cross that ice patch.

The Rockets need to win, they need to beat a quality opponent, and they need to do so badly.

If they can't get that done in a close game soon, what's going to happen in the postseason?

When the pressure is turned up in a win-or-go-home game, what will they draw from when the only thing to draw from is oh-so-close?