The last time Spring Grove qualified for the district playoffs, Eli Brooks was four months old.
Sixteen years later on Friday night, he was scoring 30 points and leading the Rockets to a 66-55 preliminary round win against Red Lion in Spring Grove's return to the district stage.
The sophomore guard scored 11 points in the first half to help Spring Grove erase an early seven-point deficit, then hit two 3-pointers to open the second half on his way to an 11-point third quarter.
"It means a lot for the program, especially with the youth kids coming to watch us win," Brooks said. "A win like this helps us build the program up."
The Rockets needed Brooks' scoring output to help hold off a late Lions rally that cut the lead from 41-24 to 54-49 in the fourth quarter.
Brooks finished 7-of-13 from the field and 13-of-15 from the free-throw line.
"I've been shooting a lot more in practice to improve my shot," Brooks said. "It finally paid off."
The Rockets shot a combined 19-of-30 over the last three quarters, including eight 3-pointers.
"We knew if we moved the ball, we would have open looks because their focus was on Darin and I," Brooks said. "So everyone stepped up and hit big shots."
Red Lion senior Stone McCreary had totaled 41 points in two games against Spring Grove this season, but the Lions were hindered Friday by his two-points performance. McCreary was sick, head coach Steve Schmehl said, but Wyatt Tyson and Bennett Frey picked up the scoring slack. Both guards doubled their average scoring output with 20 and 13 points, respectively.
"Tyson has been one of our best players for the past month and we knew he had to play big," Schmehl said. "It's a shame McCreary couldn't give it a full go, especially since he's a senior, but some other guys stepped up."
But it wasn't enough to keep up with the Rockets, who outscored the Lions, 43-22, in the second and third quarters.
"Some of their shots weren't falling early, but it seemed like they hit seven of their next 10 3-pointers or something like that," Schmehl said. "We were in two types of zone because we don't match up with Gordon and Brooks particularly well. We were hoping to pressure some of the other guys, but unfortunately, they got on a roll."
After a rough first quarter, Spring Grove clawed back and took a three-point lead into the half. In the first four minutes of the second half, the Rockets forced Red Lion out of its zone defense with four straight 3-pointers from Brooks, Darin Gordon and Erik Myers. Gordon added a layup to cap off a 14-0 run.
"I told them that we've already beaten this team twice this year and we need to act like it," Spring Grove head coach James Brooks said. "We need to be the aggressive team because they weren't going to give it to us, so we need to take it."
So, what is Spring Grove's reward for the Rockets' first district win in nearly two decades?
A Feb. 18 road matchup with the No. 1 ranked team in Class AAAA — Cedar Crest.
Despite that looming clash, after the game the Rockets were focused on how far the program had come and what the win meant to their legacy.
"This team put together something that I never did as a player and did something that I never could," Brooks said. "I was a pretty good player and I never won a district game. It's unbelievable. They believed that they could do something better and they did."
Spring grove (66)
Eli Brooks 7 13-15 30, Darin Gordon 6 3-3 16, Myers 3 0-0 8, Wierman 2 0-0 5, Sager 2 0-0 4, Flaherty 1 0-0 3, Dr. Gordon 0 0-0 0, Hoffnagle 0 0-0 0
Totals — 21 16-18 66
red lion (55)
Wyatt Tyson 6 6-6 20, Bennett Frey 5 2-3 13, Rebuck 3 0-1 6, Godfrey 2 2-4 6, Boyd-Gillespie 2 0-0 6, McCreary 1 0-0 2, Schreckengast 1 0-0 2, Huson 0 0-0 0
Totals — 20 10-14 55
Spring Grove5222118—66Red Lion12121021—55
3-point goals — SG 8 (Brooks 3, Myers 2, Wierman, Flaherty, Gordon), RL 5 (Tyson 2, Boyd-Gillespie 2, Frey)