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Fueled by good ball movement and solid rebounding, the Rockets never fell behind Thursday as they blasted past the Lincoln County Patriots, 70-58, and into the second round of the 2008 National City/KHSAA state championship tournament at Rupp Arena.
Against the bigger Rockets, the Patriots kept the ball outside where they shot 28 three-pointers. But the Rockets expected that game plan and held the Patriots to only nine connections from behind the arch, and most misses were rebounded by the Rockets.
"All the guys we had on the court did a great job for us rebounding that first shot off their three-point attempts late in the game," Shelby County head coach Mike Clark said.
The Rockets kept relentless pressure on the Patriots' outside shooting and bullied them in the post, out-rebounding the Patriots 38-15.
"We felt like we had an advantage in the post," Clark said. "All the scouting reports that we had on Lincoln County said that they were great shooters, they had great perimeter play, and they struggled in the post."
On the offensive side, the Rockets worked the ball around better than Lincoln County expected they would and finished with nearly twice as many assists as the Patriots, 19-10. Senior forward Alex Matthews led the Rockets with 8 assists.
Coach Clark said he was pleased with the way his team passed the ball against the Patriots, and commended Matthews for his smart play.
"He can not only pass the pigskin, he can pass the basketball pretty well," Clark said. "Alex does a great job for us passing the ball, does a great job putting it in, and is a great leader for our team."
Most assists ended up down low in the hands of senior center Coty Minnis, who was nearly unstoppable on his way to a double-double, scoring a game high 25 points and bringing down 10 rebounds.
The Patriots knew Minnis would be a factor, but what they didn't count on was how well the Rockets moved the ball and found the open target.
"They passed the ball better today than what we had seen, and what we had seen on film also," Lincoln County head coach Jeff Jackson said. "They're very well coached and they play very very hard."
Lincoln County was able to rally and pull within four points of Shelby County in the fourth quarter, but the Rockets kept their composure and pulled away again, winning 70-58.
The Rockets return to action tonight at 6:30 when they take on Hazard.