Rockets' intensity brings big victory at North Oldham

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By Laura Clark

GOSHEN -- The Shelby County Rockets rebounded from an early deficit to defeat North Oldham, 84-75, in a fierce battle Friday night.

This was an emotionally charged game before it even began, with North Oldham fans taunting almost-Mustang Darryl Hicks. But Hicks, a freshman, shook it off and used that intensity to score 21 points and grab 10 rebounds.

“I think he wanted to come out and show everybody he’s better fitted with us,” teammate Tavis Elzy said. “And he just wanted to show them he’s a good player.”

Hicks said he approached the game with pure excitement, getting to play again with people he knew well from summer pick-up games and AAU ball, players who for a while were his teammates. Hicks moved in with his AAU coach and enrolled at North Oldham last summer but changed his mind in October and returned to his family and SCHS.

The first quarter was rough for Shelby, who gave up several turnovers. Trailing at the outset of the second quarter, 17-11, Shelby shut down the Mustangs' three-point shooters. Hicks and Elzy had the task of guarding point guard Alex Foley, who they held to two field goals in the first half.

“All week we’ve been preaching about not letting Foley get his hand on the ball, because he could do pretty much what he wanted,” Elzy said.

The Rockets (14-4), led by Hicks and Donovan Johnson, put up 31 points in the second quarter. Cache Tomlinson hit a three at the buzzer, giving Shelby a 42-33 lead at halftime.

Only North Oldham's big man, Devon Rowan, proved tough to handle in the second half. He scored a game-high 25 points and had 14 rebounds. Johnson, Eric Standafer and Nigel Beach each had a turn trying to deny Rowan the ball.

“He played physical the whole game,” Standafer said. “We tried to front him, tried to play behind him. He had moves that we couldn’t stop.”

But the Rockets gained an emotional edge to open the fourth quarter. Elzy threw a long inbounds pass to Johnson for a big dunk. Then Hicks grabbed a Mustangs' miss and hit Elzy on a long outlet pass. Elzy, with two steps on the nearest defender, jammed his first dunk of the season.

“After we got steals and dunked the ball – that changed the whole game,” Hicks said. “We got fired up right there.”

The Mustangs (6-11) closed the gap to five points with just more than two minutes to play. But the Rockets slowed down and fed Hicks down low for an easy bucket. At the Mustangs' end, Hicks flew across the baseline to block Rowan's underneath, then nailed two free throws a possession later.

Shelby's defense, led by Elzy, picked up six points in those final minutes off steals. The half-court trap also forced the Mustangs to burn timeouts in the second half.

Other than giving up too many points, Rockets Coach Mike Clark said his team played hard at both ends of the floor. He noted contributions from Elzy and Beach off the bench. Four players were in double figures: Hicks, Johnson, Tomlinson and Boomer Beckley. Johnson also had 11 rebounds. Elzy had nine points.

“Limit a couple turnovers and a defensive stop on the big guy,” Elzy said. “And it’s one of the best games we’ve played.”