It was a certainly a drastic turn of fortunes for the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont boys basketball team Friday night in Albia.
According to junior Christian Bambrook, it came about by returning to a simple philosophy.
“We started playing Rocket basketball,” Bambrook said. “The way it should be played.”
Down by as many as 13 points in the first half, EBF turned the tables on Albia in a dramatic way. The Rockets used a 17-2 run to open the second half to take their second lead of the night.
EBF wouldn’t need to rally for a third. The run gave the Rockets an edge they wouldn’t give up as EBF took an impressive 63-54 road win over the Blue Demons.
“We just couldn’t get a rhythm going in the first half, but we stayed together as a team,” Bambrook said. “Our heads weren’t down. We weren’t pointing fingers at each other.”
“Our shots started falling and their shots didn’t. It just kind of turned around from there.”
According to Albia head coach Kevin Archer, the simple matter of falling shots simply told the story of how this SCC contest played out. A simple change in defense by EBF helped changed the course of the game.
“(EBF) started out in a man-to-man (defense) on us. When they do that, we’re going to score a lot,” Archer said. “Once they went to a 2-3 zone, we started to struggle, but it’s a pretty simple thing. It was a matter of us not knocking down shots when we needed to and (EBF) shooting a heck of a lot better.”
No shooter was hotter at the start of the night then sophomore Matt Baker, who scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in the opening quarter. Those 11 points were also half of Albia’s 22 points in the opening eight minutes.
Baker’s big night came on the heels of senior Tanner Kellogg’s incredible 22-point, 22-rebound double-double against Davis County on Tuesday. The sharp shooting of the Blue Demons’ sophomore guard did not come due to a lack of preparation by the Rockets.
“We know all about Matt. He’s a great player,” EBF head coach Travis Stout said. “We tried to limit his looks and we definitely focused on both he and Kellogg, but we just didn’t limit Baker enough in the first quarter.”
After leading Albia out to a 22-9 lead, Baker sat for most of the second quarter. During that time, EBF chipped away at the deficit and pulled within two before Baker finally returned in the final two minutes of the first half.
“I believe in my bench and I’m going to play them every time,” Archer said.
“Matt’s definitely the catalyst to their offense. It seemed like (Albia) was a little lost without him on the floor,” Stout added.
Baker’s only three points of the second quarter came on a 3-point play that put Albia up 29-24 at the half. The second-half turnaround of the Rockets started with junior Brandon Plate, who buried consecutive 3-pointers to bring EBF within 31-30.
Lay-ups by Bambrook and Trevor Leffler then put EBF ahead for the first time since the opening minute. Albia suddenly went cold from the field, going scoreless for six minutes while the Rockets couldn’t miss with 14 consecutive points that put EBF up by 11 late in the third quarter.
“When (Matt Baker) isn’t out there, (Albia’s) missing one of their best scorers,” Bambrook said. “He’s a great player and when he’s gone, they have to find someone else that can stretch out our zone. They have to rely on Kellogg, and he can only do so much.”
Like last Friday against Centerville and Logan Dabney, Bambrook had to battle with another potent post presence in Kellogg. The 6-6 EBF star won the battle, leading the Rockets with a game-high 23 points while shooting 10-16 from the field including a lay-up in the final minutes to help clinch the victory.
Albia’s attempts to rally in the fourth quarter from a 13-point deficit included three straight 3-pointers in the final three minutes. EBF junior Trevor Swartz, however, stalled the rally by hitting six straight free throws to cap a 15-point night.
“It’s all about having a tough mental mindset,” Swartz said. “We’ve had tough times throughout the season, but we’ve been playing better lately. It’s all about working together and believing that we can win.”
EBF (10-9, 2-7) and Albia (10-8, 5-4) both are back on the floor today. The Rockets head to Moulton-Udell while the Blue Demons take on Knoxville at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, site of the state basketball tournament.
Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont 63, Albia 54
EBF 12 12 20 19 — 63
Albia 22 7 9 16 — 54
EBF (63) — Christian Bambrook 23, Trevor Swartz 15, Trevor Leffler 14, Brandon Plate 9, Jevin Jensen 2. Totals 24-44 11-17 63.
3-point goals — 4-12 (Plate 3-4, Leffler 1-4, Jensen 0-1, Swartz 0-3). Rebounds — 40 (Leffler 12, Jensen 11, Bambrook 7, Swartz 4, Plate 3, Christopher Welch 3). Assists — 20 (Swartz 8, Leffler 5, Jensen 4, Bambrook 2, Plate). Steals — 4 (Jensen, Leffler, Plate, Swartz). Blocks — 5 (Bambrook 3, Jensen, Leffler). Total fouls — 10. Turnovers — 19.
Albia (54) — Matt Baker 22, Tanner Kellogg 12, Ryan Sarver 8, Mason Cox 6, Zach Hugen 3, Tanner Wynn 3. Totals 19-63 6-10 54.
3-point goals — 10-30 (Baker 4-9, Sarver 2-2, Cox 2-6, Hugen 1-3, Kellogg 1-8, Wynn 0-2). Fouled out — Baker. Rebounds — 30 (Kellogg 12, Hugen 8, Baker 5, Luse 2, Wynn 2, Gabe Gravert). Assists — 14 (Cox 5, Hugen 4, Wynn 3, Baker, Kellogg). Steals — 10 (Wynn 3, Baker 2, Luse 2, Cox, Hugen, Kellogg). Blocks — 0. Total fouls — 16. Turnovers — 11.