REESE, MI – Reese had won 23 consecutive basketball games against Laker.
Still, it was the Rockets who felt like it was payback time.
Still spiky after a playoff loss that ended their best football season in eight years, the Rockets even got the best way they know with a 64-50 victory over Laker in a first showdown for the first place in Greater Thumb West.
“After the football game they were saying we weren’t good at football and we were school basketball,” said Reese senior Jake Rau. “We said ‘OK, let’s show them that we are a basketball school.
Reese (7-1, 3-0) held off a mighty challenge from Laker (4-1, 1-1), taking a big step toward a third consecutive GTW Championship — and further enhancing the impressive basketball recovery from school.
On a night that began with honoring new 1,000-point scorer Damarquss Troublefield — and former 1,000-point club members Bob Zwerk, Matthew Sahr, Dennis Gruber and Kyle Stockmeyer — the Rockets built on their basketball legacy with a 20th straight league win.
Even though Reese hasn’t lost to Laker since Jan. 29, 2010, the Rockets were fully focused and ready for a challenge. Laker had gone 4-0 and was shaping up to be a legitimate contender for its first conference crown since 1998.
Reese was further motivated by a lingering memory of the fall, when Laker stunned the Rockets 49-6 in the first round of the Division 7 football playoffs. But basketball, as is often the case, would be another story. .
Reese played like the school basketball she is, showing a mark of team play that is hard to stop. With a chance to put Laker away, the Rockets scored on three consecutive possessions in exactly the same way — a player makes a hard cut to the basket and a teammate gets the ball back to him for a layup.
“These guys are approaching 80 college games together, so they know each other and trust each other,” Reese’s coach Justin Shepherd said. “So many times, we’ll have someone cut the lane at the last second on a fast ramp and – boom! – it’s an easy lay-up. It’s the kind of thing that makes any basketball coach proud or any basketball fan who appreciates what they see.
“On most possessions, if we dribble five or six times, we’re probably doing something wrong. We are at our best when the ball is buzzing. When we play fast, play aggressive and make cuts, that’s Reese Rockets basketball.
Sharing the ball and spreading the wealth was a winning combination, as Rau scored 16 points, Levi Foco 15, Troublefield 12 and Jesse Stricker 10.
Laker was out on a mission, building an 11-6 lead while playing a tough 2-3 zone. But Reese raced 7-0 in the final minute of the quarter to take a 13-11 lead.
After leading 25-19 at halftime, Reese started to click and threatened to retire. But Laker’s Mikel Good threw a flurry of goals, tallying eight straight points to tie the game at 43-35. Troublefield drilled a crushing 3-pointer just before the horn and Reese had momentum again.
When the Rockets chained three straight baskets — off three straight cuts in the lane — the writing was on the wall.
“It was a super important league win against a physical, hungry side,” Shepherd said.
“A lot of teams have us surrounded on the schedule, so we have to bring it in and do whatever we need to do, or we’re going to be beaten. It’s a talking point for the coaches. We know a lot of teams see this as their big chance, so we better be focused and ready.
Good led Laker with 17 points while Logan Collison-Russell added 10 and Hunter Krohn eight.
Reese is now preparing for another challenge, taking on undefeated Croswell-Lexington on Monday in the Martin Luther King Classic at Saginaw Valley State University.
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