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Offensive woes cost Knights on road

LAYUP: Southwood’s Carson Rich prepares to rise up for a layup in the first half of Tuesday’s game against Rochester.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

ROCHESTER – For three quarters on Tuesday night at Rochester, the Southwood boys’ basketball team used its defense to remain in the game against Rochester when its offense was struggling. In the end, though, that formula could not hold true through all four periods on the night.

The Zebras outscored the Knights 23-15 in the fourth, including a 21-8 run to open the frame, to pull away from the visitors for a 64-57 win in the Three Rivers Conference (TRC) clash.

“I think our poor shooting finally bit us in the fourth quarter,” Southwood head coach John Burrus said. “Rochester didn’t score at a great pace. They just finally got some buckets there at the end. But they scored enough. When the game was in the balance, we didn’t score when we needed, we missed some free throws. You’re going to have some games like that.

“Rochester, they’re a pretty physical group. They’re a little different team. But they’re always tough up here. It’s a tough game.”

The Knights started slow and were left scratching and clawing for much of the night. The hosts scored eight of the first 10 points and opened up a 17-7 lead with 1:52 to go in the first after a Nick Allen three-pointer.

Just before the end of the quarter, though, Gabe Lloyd would connect on a three before Carson Rich would force one of many turnovers on the night for Rochester before finding Dallas Holmes for another three-pointer in a 10-second span, pulling the guests within 17-13 after one.

The three-pointer was key for the Knights early in the third as they continued chipping away at the lead. Rich would score the first seven points of the second period for Southwood, capped off with a three-pointer to close the gap to 21-20.

Dallas Holmes tied the game for Southwood on a three before Rich gave the guests their first lead of the game with 3:14 to go before following it up with another basket as part of a 7-0 run to give Southwood’s its biggest lead of the night at 27-23.

In the midst of that run, though, Holmes, the TRC’s leading scorer, would pick up his third foul with 3:04 remaining. One minute later, after a roll of the dice by the Knights, Holmes’ fourth foul would come via a technical foul, forcing him to the bench with Southwood ahead 29-25.

Southwood would still head into the half ahead 32-30 after a Rich basket to close the period. The sophomore guard poured in 15 points in the opening half, 13 of those coming in the second.

Rich would continue carrying the offensive load in the third period for the Knights. With Holmes saddled to the bench with the foul trouble, Rich’s five points to close the third period helped Southwood retake the lead at 42-41 entering the fourth.

But Holmes’ return in the fourth mattered little on the night as Rochester caught fire from the field. A 9-0 run to open the half featured five points from Quin Stesiak in his only minutes of varsity action on the night and four points from Kyle Reinartz as the hosts pulled ahead 50-42.

Rich stopped the run with a free throw with 4:07 left in the game, Southwood’s first points of the frame, but the Knights were unable to piece together their own run. A three-point play from Brady Perez capped off a 14-3 run from the hosts to give Rochester a 55-45 advantage.

Southwood closed the gap to seven points on a handful of occasions, once on a three-point play from Braden Barney, once on a pair of free throws from Luke Winer and one last time just ahead of the final buzzer on a three-pointer from Jackson Simons.

“I know we forced a lot of turnovers,” Burrus said. “They scored 64, which is a lot for them, but we had to play at that pace. I knew early on if we didn’t, they were just going to stay in their lockdown zone and make it tough for us. We didn’t want to just shoot threes all night but we did shoot a lot of threes. You look at that score, it’s kind of an ‘if’ score. If we make some threes, maybe they have to get out of that zone and if they would have went man, I think we probably would have been able to get more done.”

Rich finished with 23 points, Simons added 13 and Holmes nine. Lloyd had six while Barney and Winer had three points apiece.

After a win over Class 3A No. 1 Northwestern on Saturday, Tuesday’s mid-week TRC game on the road presented a new set of challenges for a young Knight side.

“This is a totally different situation. That’s what’s unique. If you’re a seasoned team, it’s all basketball. ‘Where are we playing? What time’s the game? Just tell me, we’ll be there.’ Kind of like how we were the last couple of years. But this team, every game is kind of a different set of challenges. This is a long road trip. It’s a mid-week game. There’s always going to be tough to beat here. But then you throw in those things, it’s just a different feel. 

“It’s not an excuse, but we’ve got a young team and the reality is, when they come into a different environment like this, they’ve got to overcome more things. But that’s part of getting experience.”

Southwood (6-10) will host Madison-Grant on Thursday before traveling to Maconaquah on Friday.