The Rockets led by four points in the third quarter before pulling away
James Brooks hoped it wouldn't be a trap game.
Spring Grove had its third game in as many days Friday against Red Lion, and the Rockets head coach knew there was a chance his players would be sluggish and unfocused after two straight blowout wins.
"Coming off of (a win against) York Tech and this being our third in a row, it would have been easy for us to lose this one," Brooks said.
Fortunately for Brooks, the Rockets (17-2, 10-2 YAIAA Division I) had plenty of energy at home on Friday, beating Red Lion, 60-51, for its seventh straight win. It was Spring Grove's second win against Red Lion (7-11, 4-7 YAIAA Division I) this season, having won by 16 on Jan. 5.
But Friday's game was closer and for a while in the second half, it seemed like Red Lion might have been on its way to an upset. After trailing by 12 points at halftime, the Lions went on a 14-6 run to cut the deficit to four midway through the third quarter.
The catalyst behind Red Lion's comeback attempt was junior Gary Hunt, who hit five 3-pointers and finished the game with 20 points. The 5-foot-9 guard gave the Lions a spark heading into halftime by nailing a 3 at the buzzer.
"We know (Hunt) is a scrappy player, and he plays with confidence, but we didn't think he was going to score this much," Spring Grove junior Eli Brooks said. "We've got to play better on the defensive side against that."
Ultimately, Spring Grove's combination of Brooks and senior Darin Gordon proved to be too much for the Lions to overcome. With the Rockets up by just four, Brooks immediately answered with a breakaway dunk, and Gordon followed with a 3-pointer to give Spring Grove a nine-point lead heading into the fourth.
With a fourth straight game on Saturday against Delone Catholic, the Rockets don't have time to catch their breath. Still, James Brooks said he expects his players to be ready and credited them with using their time off last weekend to stay in shape.
"I'm fortunate, most of my guys, when we don't have a game or practice, they're still playing," James Brooks said. "My guys are gym rats who stay in shape, and it's really shown and paid off."
The loss hurts the Lions, who are still trying to make a district playoff push. Red Lion head coach Steve Schmehl said that while his players can build off Friday's performance, they can't afford to fall behind by large margins to top teams.
"You come out against one of the best teams in the district and put yourself in an 18-point hole; I don't know that anybody is coming back," Schmehl said. "I'm super proud of them, and we had chances, we just kind of ran out of steam."
Red Lion (51)
Gary Hunt 7 1-3 20, Ryan Schreckengast 5 0-1 12, Boyd-Gillespie 3 0-0 7, Frey 1 0-0 2, Tyson 2 0-0 4, Foster 2 0-0 6. Totals — 20 1-4 51.
Spring Grove (60)
Eli Brooks 11 0-0 24, Darin Gordon 4 5-5 14, Grant Wierman 4 2-2 12, Flaherty 1 0-0 3, Sager 1 0-0 2, Drew Gordon 1 1-2 3, Panter 0 2-2 2, Messersmith 0 0-0 0. Totals — 22 10-11 60.
Red Lion _ 11 _ 12_ 14 _ 14 _ — _ 51
Spring Grove _ 20 _ 15 _ 11 _ 14 _ — _ 60
3-point goals — Red Lion 10 (Hunt 7, Schreckengast 2, Foster 2, Boyd-Gillespie), Spring Grove 6 (Brooks 2, Wierman 2, Darin Gordon, Flaherty).