The Ottumwa Courier

January 31, 2014

Rockets regain SCC lead

By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer

---- — EDDYVILLE — It wasn’t the prettiest girls basketball game in the world.

But the scoreboard at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont high school looked pretty good by the end of the night Friday if you were a Rockets fan. EBF earned a physical 55-22 South Central Conference win over Centerville, pushing the Rockets to 7-1 in the SCC.

And for junior Karlie Taylor, that meant a sweet sight to the bottom left of the south side of the EBF gymnasium. There sits the SCC Conference standings for girls and boys basketball as well as wrestling.

Before the night, it showed EBF in second place in the SCC behind Albia. By the end of the night, the Rockets had moved in front of the Lady Dees in the standings thanks to a 56-51 upset by Clarke earlier in the evening.

“I’ll let (EBF athletic director Curt) Johnston move those around next week, but it’ll definitely be great to see our names on top,” Taylor said.

As has been the case most of the season for the Rockets, a pressure-packed defensive attack kept an opposing offense from getting into a rhythm. Centerville started the game missing its first seven shots while committing nine turnovers in the opening quarter.

The tone was set. The Redettes struggled all night long committing 34 turnovers while making just seven field goals on five assists.

“It was a very aggressive game and once you get in those kind of games, Eddyville just thrives on that,” Centerville head coach Matt Kovacevich said. “It seemed sometimes like they had 10 girls out with the way they rotate defenses.”

The Redettes offensively struggles didn’t keep them from putting up a fight, however. Centerville made sure each basket EBF earned was equally as hard-earned, banging Rocket players back in the post while preventing an easy lane to the basket at all times.

“It was tough out there. It was definitely a physical game,” Rockets head coach Tony Fenton said. “Every time we shot the ball, there was contact being made and not many fouls being called. Fortunately, the girls played through it.”

Nobody found out how tough it was going to be early on then EBF’s top scorer, Tasha Alexander. While the senior added 21 more points to her career 1,000-point total, Alexander had to take a seat in the second quarter after being caught around the eye by the hand of a Centerville defender.

“Someone grabbed my eye and it took my contact back into my eye,” Alexander explained. “I just couldn’t see when that happened. I had to go the bench and get my contact taken all the way out.”

The Rockets frustrated Centerville for 32 full minutes with a tenacious and aggressive half-court offense and defense on Friday. The results led to an early 16-4 lead for EBF, a 28-12 lead at the half and a 20 to 30-point advantage throughout much of the second half.

“I think you could sense that (Centerville) was getting frustrated, but we love it,” Taylor said after a 12-point, nine-rebound effort against the Redettes. “It’s just fun to see our style of play get into their heads. Being aggressive is always fun.”

Alyssa Barger and Maddie Lange each led Centerville with six points in the contest. While EBF played tough, tight defense all night, the Redettes’ young squad again had trouble getting into any kind of offensive synch.

“We kind of expected this coming into the season. We would have liked to have gotten a couple wins on the board by this point. We’ve been close and the kids are definitely giving it their all,” Kovacevich said. “Our kids play tough for four quarters. They don’t give up. You can’t fault their effort.”

The Redettes will continue searching for their first win next week. Centerville (0-15, 0-8) will host Fairfield Tuesday and Mount Pleasant Thursday before a road SCC test at Chariton Friday.

For EBF, Friday’s win proved the Rockets are more than just a team that can beat you with full-court defense. With tougher opponents looming as the postseason approaches, EBF showed on Friday they can be just as tough to beat in the half-court.

“The half-court offense and defense both are going to be very important,” Fenton said. “We’ve been working a lot on half-court in practice and in the past few games, we’ve had to play it. I think our girls are responding to it well.”

The Rockets (13-5, 7-1) will look to protect their slim SCC lead next week with their own road trip to Chariton on Tuesday night. EBF needs to win that game to ensure an SCC first-place showdown next Friday in their home gym against Albia.

“You can’t really look past any game. Especially on their court, it’s going to be very tough to beat (Chariton),” Alexander said. “We’re definitely looking forward to Albia next Friday.”

Count Taylor among those Rocket players that can’t wait for a second chance at the Lady Dees after dropping a 42-32 decision at Albia on Jan. 10.

“I’ve been counting down the days to (next Friday’s) game ever since that final buzzer went off in Albia,” Taylor said. “I want to beat (Albia) so bad.”

To follow Scott Jackson's Twitter feed, go to @CourierScott or @stjack423