Rocks get rolled in sectional final


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Originally Posted Online: March 08, 2013, 10:41 pm
Last Updated: March 08, 2013, 11:31 pm
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By Daniel Makarewicz, danmak@qconline.com

PEKIN -- The first thing Rock Island boys' basketball coach Thom Sigel uttered when he officially learned the Rocks were facing Edwardsville in the Class 4A Pekin Sectional final was about four of its starters standing 6-foot-5 or taller.

What needed to be added was how well the Tigers shot the ball.

And executed.

And rebounded.

And defended.

Flawless in every aspect on the court, Edwardsville overpowered the Rocks on Friday night. Rocky simply could not match the firepower in its 71-45 sectional final loss at Dawdy Hawkins Gym.

It was the first time in six years the Rocks suffered a postseason loss by 20 points or more.

"They were better in person," Rocky senior guard Brian Richardson said. "We said they looked beatable on film, but they came out and played good and played tough."

Upon learning of this pairing on Tuesday night, the Rocks (25-5) broke down five films on Edwardsville to try and figure out a way to stop a team that entered the championship on an 11-game winning streak.

On this night, there was no stopping the Tigers. In winning its second consecutive sectional championship, Edwardsville (29-2) earned a wire-to-wire victory that was both dominating and impressive.

"They're an experienced group," Sigel said. "Their experience showed."

Above all, the Tigers showed their offensive capabilities from the opening possession. Less than three minutes into the game, Edwardsville buried its first four shots, with three from beyond the 3-point arc.

Rocky stayed close through the initial surge, but the Tigers closed the first quarter on an 8-0 run to build a 19-10 lead.

Garrett Covington's 3-pointer to start the second pushed the Edwardsville lead to 22-10. After that, the Rocks never got within single digits.

What iced the game was the Tigers' 24-2 first-half run that spanned seven minutes.

"That has a lot to do with them being 29-and-2," Sigel said. "They're experienced, play well together and have a lot of weapons."

For the entire first half, Edwardsville executed like surgeons as it methodically dissected through the Rocky defense. Given a perimeter shot, the Tigers knocked it down. Any lane to the basket was exploited and they made the extra pass to get high-percentage looks.

In the first half, they shot 65.4 percent (17-of-26) from the field.

"We ran our offense really well," Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo said. "Rock Island gave us a bunch of different looks defensively and they were hard to play against, but our guys did a good job with spacing and passing. We did a really good job offensively."

Playing with a comfortable lead, the Tigers never lost their edge. However, Rocky did not present challenges on the defensive end. The Rocks rushed shots and settled for outside looks, allowing Edwardsville to build on its lead.

Anytime the Rocks did attack the basket, Edwardsville's height made it difficult to convert shots.

"We took questionable shots," said Richardson, who scored a team-high 11 points. "You have to make as many good plays as you can. We tried and tried and tried -- we couldn't make them."

C.J. Carr added 10 points for the Rocks, who shot 34.7 percent (17-of-49) from the field. Edwardsville's starters scored all 71 points, led by Tre' Harris' 22 points and 17 more from Covington.

The Tigers also owned a 36-19 advantage on the glass and held their opponent to 45 points or fewer for the fourth time in as many postseason games. They also had 18 assists on 27 field goals.

"They have everything it takes to be a state-championship level team," Richardson said.

All that was enough to end Rocky's season one win short of its third sectional title in five years. Along the way, the Rocks won won their fourth consecutive Western Big 6 Conference title and reached the 25-win mark for the second time in three seasons.

"When they came back to the gym and look at the regional and Big 6 (championship) board, they'll have '2013' up there," Sigel said. "Maybe when they're older and come back, they can say they were part of that."




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