Girls win two at St. James tournament
by DAVE PEDERSEN
If there was a specific place where Rockford boys basketball players flipped a switched and turned the season around, it may have been during a halftime pep talk by coach Michael Tauber.
Prior to the Christmas break, the Rockets lost to Foley in a game where Tauber said his team did not play very well and had just one win on the season.
The next night after Rockford trailed a good West Lutheran team by 13 points early, the coach called time out and said he shook things up.
“I called the players out for how they had been playing,” said Tauber. “We talked about focus, effort and the need to have confidence.”
Rockford went on a 14-0 run to go up by one at the break and went on to win 71-70. Tauber said the big win gave the team a shot of confidence that carried into the next week when winning three more games.
Against West Lutheran Rockford grabbed 53 rebounds, a high for the year. Junior Brock Deering powered the offense with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Junior Nick Tully added 15 points. Senior center Alex Shaikoski came off the bench to score 10 points when not missing a shot or free throw. Junior guard Robert Dumas led with five assists off the bench.
The lead changed four times in the final 48 seconds. With six seconds left and Rockford trailing by one Deering made a back door pass to senior guard Joey Richardt who won the game with a layup.
Rockford moved on to the St. James tournament, defeating the host team 71-63. Junior forward Brendon Schumacher led with 22 points and 10 rebounds. He shot 7 for 11 from the field and was 8 of 9 at the free throw line.
Deering added 17 points and 12 rebounds to give Rockford two players with a double-double of more than 10 points and rebounds, which has not happened in a long time.
Tully, who Tauber calls a model of consistency, scored 12 points and has had only one game when he did not score in double figures. Jordan Redepenning led with six assists.
The team was 16 of 20 from the line for 80 percent. Rockford leads the league in free throw shooting at 68 percent for the season. Tauber said poor 3-point shooting has been the team’s dagger.
Rockford next had to face No. 12-anked Morris/Chokio-Alberta, which had upset Litchfield when it was ranked No. 1 in Class AA.
The Rockets held on for a 55-48 upset victory in overtime. The game plan was to force the shots from the outside and keep the ball away from the athletic scoring big men.
Redepenning scored 11 points with eight rebounds and seven assists. He was named to the all-tournament team along with Deering, who had 16 points against the Morris area squad.
A key play came in overtime when Redepenning drove to the basket to score and was fouled. The 3-point play stretched the lead to seven and secured victory.
Tauber also noted the play of senior Ben Arens, who hit 3 of 4 free throws in overtime. After starting the season slowed by injury, Arens finally got a lot of minutes and played them well, according to his coach.
Rockford’s fourth straight win came against Holdingford last Thursday, 51-29. It was the first time the Rockets had won four straight games in a few years.
Deering led with 16 points, while Tully added 10. Richardt led with four steals and senior Logan Suko led with seven rebounds.
Rockford plays against Pierz at St. Cloud State, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11 and is home to Eden Valley-Watkins, Thursday, Jan. 17.
Rockford could breathe easier when going out of the metro to play at the St. James holiday tournament.
Prior to the event the Rockets lost to West Lutheran 77-42 and after it lost 77-46 to Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted. In St. James, the going was easier, defeating Springfield 68-49 and St. James 57-32.
Against HLWW, Jayda Palmer scored 17 points with 11 rebounds. She is currently ranked 10th in the state in rebounds.
In St. James senior Jordan Weeding and senior Katelynn Pedersen were named all-tournament. Rockford led 42-9 at the half against the host team. Coach James Carr said his players were shooting well and getting defensive stops. Pedersen led with 13 points and sophomore Briana Calder had 11.
Weeding powered the offense against Springfield, scoring 20 points. Calder hit for 17 points and Pedersen added nine.
“Briana is one of our more versatile players who can play any position from guard to center,” said Carr about Calder. “She is smart enough with her body position to be able to play solid defense down low.”
Carr also praised the recent play of Nkaujntsa Lee, a senior guard who forces many steals and easy baskets.
The Rockets are home to Eden Valley-Watkins Thursday, Jan. 10 and to Jordan, 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the end of the Rockford youth basketball tournament.
Contact Dave Pedersen at [email protected]