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EARLIER: Rockets coast past Dunbar

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Tomlinson leads the way with 5 3-pointers

By Todd Martin

LEXINGTON – The SCHS boys’ basketball team opened the regular season with a bang on the road Tuesday, whipping Dunbar, 83-61.

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Cache Tomlinson’s hot shooting offset some early foul trouble.

The senior guard’s first 3-pointer came just two minutes into the game, and he helped pick up the slack throughout the first half when fouls forced forwards Donovan Johnson, Eric Standafer and Nigel Beach to the bench for extended periods of time.

Tomlinson’s second 3-pointer gave Shelby it’s first lead, 14-11, with 3:01 left in the opening quarter, and from there the Rockets never looked back.

SCHS Coach Mike Clark rotated the three foul-strapped forwards in and out through the first and second quarters, hoping all could play smart enough not to pick up a third foul.

“I didn’t want them sitting the whole first half,” Clark said. “Donovan would’ve had to sit for about 14 minutes, then a 10-minute halftime. If those guys sat that long, they could come out flat in the second half.”

Also, with this being the first game of the season, Clark wanted to see how his team responded.

With the inside game in flux with foul trouble, Clark saw that his guards can carry the scoring load.

Tomlinson scored 13 first half points, on his way to a game-high 27, and freshman Darryl Hicks scored 12 of his 16 in the first half, including nine in the second quarter alone.

“Cache was on fire start to finish,” Clark said. “His shooting and passing were phenomenal.

“And Darryl had a great game offensively and on the glass. He finished shots in transition.

“The big thing with Darryl was, because of the foul trouble, we couldn’t get him the breaks that he’d normally get. He played a lot of minutes in the first and second quarters, and he did a great job.”

After quietly pushing the game out to double figures in the second quarter, the Rockets took over early in the third.

Tomlinson’s fourth 3-pointer of the game sparked an 13-2 run, putting Shelby County comfortably ahead, 55-31.

Shelby County got a little sloppy in late in the third quarter, letting a big lead slip to just 14, 60-46, but the Rockets’ damage had been done.

Shelby again raced out in the fourth, pushing the lead back over 20 points and coasted from there.

“I was really pleased with our effort early in the third and in the fourth,” Clark said. “I felt like we were executing at a high level defensively with our full and half court traps.

Johnson was able to avoid foul trouble in the second half, and led the way with 12 of his 18 points.

Although Shelby came away with a road victory against a quality opponent, Clark said there was still plenty for the Rockets to work on as they head into a difficult back-to-back early season test Friday and Saturday nights.

“Right now, defensively, we’re reaching too much and gambling too much,” he said. “That’s getting us out of position and causing us to pick up some cheap fouls.

“And I’d like to see us establish possession on loose balls better. Too many times early in the game, we’d try to dribble out a loose ball and end up giving it right back to them. I thought we did a better job of that in the second half, but it’s something we still need to work on.”