“This was a redemption for our kids,” said Tyler Cook. “After the District championship, our kids had a little edge to them. They wanted this rematch with Four Winds. We knew it was going to be a grind to back to this championship game to meet them."

“This was a redemption for our kids,” said Tyler Cook.  “After the District championship, our kids had a little edge to them.  They wanted this rematch with Four Winds.  We knew it was going to be a grind to back to this championship game to meet them, and we got here, and our kids executed to perfection what we wanted them to do.”  Cook is the head coach of the New Rockford-Sheyenne Rockets, who lost to the Four Winds-Minnewaukan Indians last week, Feb. 25, in the District 7 title game.  Now the Rockets are headed to Minot, winning the Region IV Class B Championship in a rematch 58-53 over the Indians.

This game was all about defense, both sides.  The Rockets had to shut down Doug Yankton, and the Indians had to stop the Rockets from getting inside.  As it turned out, both strategies were relatively successful.

The Indians went a man-on zone in the first half, letting the Rockets try to get inside and past Bronson Walter, the Indians six-nine sophomore, who has great footwork and fills the paint as an immovable object.  The Rockets dashed in, and then fed the ball back out to the arc, stretching the floor, hitting a couple of long twos and a pair of threes from Tucker Longnecker and Hunter Thompson in the first quarter, and threes from Nathan Holzwarth, Teddy Allmaras, and Longnecker in the second.

The Rockets went a box and one defense on Doug Yankton, trying to slow him down.  It did, trapping him at the elbows and congesting the passing lanes.  Yankton had just two points in the first quarter.  The work was done underneath, where Walter had a mismatch against Longnecker.  The Indians worked the ball into Walter, but the ball had trouble finding the bottom of the net (which was an issue for both teams during the game; a lot of gimmes lost).  Walter was held to just four in the first.  Yankton picked up eight points in the second quarter forcing his way inside, six at the hoop and two at the line.  Walter got another two.

The teams went into halftime with the Rockets up 30-25.

The Indians came out with a new plan in the third quarter.  The went man on the Rockets and used a Princeton variation on offense, players constantly moving backdoor and through the low box.  This opened it up for Walter who went for eight points in the second quarter, and got JayShaun Shaw open for a pair of threes.  The Indians put on a run and got their first lead of the game, 36-34.  

The Rockets tied the game at 41 when Thompson hit two from the charity stripe, but then the Indians took their largest lead of the game, 45-41 to end the third.  The man defense chased shooters off the arc and helped them close lanes to the paint.

Every shot made in the fourth was a big shot.  The Indians were holding their four-point lead, 47-43 with just over four minutes to go, when Allmaras hit from downtown, 47-46.  Bo Belquist got in the lane to give the Rockets their first lead since early in the third, 48-47.  And Doug Yankton went down court and popped a three, 50-48.  The Rockets came down on the next possession, found Longnecker with an outlet, and it was 51-50 Rockets with 2:40 left to play.

Parker Granger saw an opening past Walter, went high, and got the trip to the stripe when Yankton bumped him.  Granger sunk both shots, and the Rockets had their final lead of the game, 53-50.

Thompson went to the line on a two-plus-one with 50 seconds left, giving the Rockets a 56-50 lead.  A pair of intentional fouls in the waning minutes got the Rockets two more points, 58-50.  Yankton sank a three at the buzzer to make the final score 58-53, Rockets.

“We knew Four Winds was going to score,” said Cook.  “You’re not going to slow that good of a team down.  They’re going to go on runs but we have to weather the storm and not let it get up to a 10, 12-point run.  We did a heck of a job on the offensive rebounds.  Doug Yankton is one of the best rebounders around and I think we did a heck of a job keeping him off the boards.  We also knew we weren’t going stop Doug from scoring; we just hoped to slow him down so he wouldn’t go off for thirty.  And Tucker Longnecker did a great job against Bronson Walter.  Obviously, there was a big mismatch back there, but Longnecker’s got a lot of heart.  He liked his match-up with Bronson, never took a play off, and kept Bronson off the boards.”