By David Pedersen
Crow River News
Rockford’s boys basketball team has struggled against some talented and athletic defenses this season and the playoffs were no different.
Holy Family Catholic forced 19 turnovers in the first half, helping to build a 20-2 lead in the first round of the Section 5AA tournament last week. The No. 8 seed went on to defeat No. 9 Rockford 86-69 to end the season for the Rockets.
“We had a lot of turnovers that they converted into points and didn’t make any early shots,” said coach Michael Tauber. “Our two points came off free throws.”
Rockford would make a little run and cut the lead to single digits. Holy Family re-built the lead to 14 at the half. The second half started the same as the first with Holy Family hitting shots and Rockford not so much.
“We took much better care of the ball the second half with only two turnovers,” notes Tauber. “We out-rebounded them big and we did some other things well, but they shot very, very well and we struggled to contain their talented athleticism on defense.”
Rockford made another run near the end of the game to cut the lead to 10 points, but it was too little too late. Holy Family made its free throws down the stretch to keep the lead.
Both Kyle Calder and Luke Pepin ended with double doubles in points and rebounds. Pepin, a ninth-grader, scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Calder, a senior, also netted 16 points with 10 rebounds.
Sophomore Nick Manthana came off the bench to contribute 17 points. Senior Jake Hall had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists. Senior Jared Connell added seven points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Junior Blake Young did not score but had five assists with three rebounds.
“After finding a groove and shooting a pretty good percentage through one stretch of the season, we ended the last few games shooting very poorly from the field,” said Tauber. “Overall, we had a very good season and exceeded most expectations. It’s always hard to see the season end, but overall these guys have a lot to hang their hat on with what they accomplished.”
Holy Family ended up upsetting No. 1 seed Brooklyn Center Saturday. Rockford will graduate four seniors and bring back five others from that rotation. The seniors are Hall, Connell, Tyler Sterling and Ryan Nolby.
“For this team to do what it did this year is truly amazing,” adds Tauber. “With only one player returning from the rotation of a year ago and to have a whole new crew fight their way to a 16-win season is remarkable. “
Hall was the one returning starter, who averaged 20.1 points per game plus 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 steals.
Pepin scored 8.8 points per game with 2.3 assists and 6.8 rebounds. Manthana averaged 8.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Calder contributed 7.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Young averaged 7.8 points, 5.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds. Connell averaged 5.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Rockford finished the season at 16-11, playing in the competitive Wright County Conference.