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No foul ups this time

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By Laura Clark

BUCKNER -- When it really mattered, the Rockets were able to play smart basketball Friday night.

Consider the final minutes of Shelby's 61-58 victory at Oldham County a template for closing out games.

The Rockets went 6-for-7 from the line in the final two minutes. They didn't make any silly turnovers. And neither did they give up an open 3-point shot.

"We have a very seasoned, veteran ball club at this point, and we expect our players to be able to handle themselves late in the ball game," Rockets Coach Mike Clark said.

Granted, this wasn't a perfect game. Shelby let a 21-10 first-quarter lead slip away in the second. With Oldham's sharp 3-point shooters, that wasn't the kind of lead that allowed the Rockets to relax, and Oldham sliced it to 5, 34-29, at halftime.

"We've got to play a lot smarter when we've got the lead," Rockets guard Boomer Beckley said. "We just made some frivolous turnovers."

Shelby surged again in the third quarter, going up, 50-36, after Eric Standafer banged in two buckets down low to end the quarter.

But Oldham was far from done, forcing three Shelby turnovers in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, while hitting four 3-pointers.

"Oldham County's a young, up-and-coming team," Clark said. "This game has been a very long-standing regional rival for both schools, and a lot of times the game's going to be close."

With 27.6 seconds to play, Colonel Kerry Smith made a floater in the lane to bring Oldham to one point, 59-58. A quick foul sent Rockets forward Donovan Johnson to the line. He hit two shots to make the margin three with about 15 seconds remaining.

Smith drove the floor and, instead of going for a 3-pointer, he put up another shot in the lane. He missed, but got his own rebound. Johnson got a hand on Smith's putback, and the Rockets came up with the ball to win.

"That's what we've been working on in practice, late situations," Beckley said. "We've been working a lot on free throws, so that paid off."

In addition to Johnson, Beckley and Cache Tomlinson were the players to hit free throws in the final minute.

Clark rolled the credits for all of his players, citing Nigel Beach's poise making the inbounds passes and Darryl Hicks' defensive play on Smith.

"I thought we did a good job rotating the ball," Clark said. "The problem was we didn't pass out of traps very well there for a 2-minute segment of the game. However, we did an outstanding job on the boards. We did an outstanding job of executing our press break down the stretch."