Despite falling a shot short, New Rockford-Sheyenne boys aren't 'hanging their heads' after loss to Central Cass
It was all about making the right shots at the right times Tuesday in New Rockford. Coming out of a timeout with 1:10 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, the Rockets were looking for a quick response to Central Cass' Cole Holzer's 3-ball from the corner to put the Squriells ahead by four.
NR-S's go-to on the post senior center Evan Ulrich had been held to two points after downing 16 in the first half. Someone had to step up and it would be senior guard Johnny Grann who would drain a 3, adjacent from where Holzer hit his, to pull the Rockets within one. After a missed three to ice the game from Central Cass, the Rockets headed down the court with one tick under 30 seconds to try and win the game.
8 seconds: Grann's shot from outside the arc bounces off the rim. 3 seconds: Grann picks up his own rebound from the top of the arc and his shot bounces off the glass. A second: Logan Prochnow holds on to Grann's rebound under the net long enough to run out the clock. New Rockford-Sheyenne (4-2) fell one shot short to RV Central Cass (3-0), 56-55, but managed to throw the Squrriels out of system and lockdown in the paint.
"We fought back and got ourselves back into the game," Rockets head coach Tyler Cook said. "It was a game of runs. We got up, then they went up and they just made the last shot. We had a couple of good looks at the end, but the ball just didn't go in the hole."
The game came down to the final shot, but at the end of the first quarter, it was looking like the game was going to be over quickly. Central Cass began to heat up from deep as they would drain four 3's in the first quarter alone to go up 17-7 with eight minutes in the book. Ulrich was leading NR-S in scoring, but all of his points came from the line.
However, the 6-foot-7-inch University of Jamestown commit was just warming up as he would drain 13 points in the second quarter alone, seeing the Rockets only down by three at halftime, 31-28. As Ulrich stands two inches above the Squirrels tallest player, he used his height as an advantage, dominating the post, adding a 3-point "and one" play in the mix.
"He's our main guy," Cook said. "We try to get the ball to him as much as we can and in the post, not only to score, but he draws a lot of doubles, creating a lot of opportunities for other guys. In that second quarter, he played very aggressive, made it to the line a few times, made a few shots, and put us on his back to get us back into the game."
As Central Cass keyed into Ulrich in the second half, the rest of the roster began to fill in as Ulrich was under pressure immdently. Down three, as they were at the half, junior guard Nick Berglund would drain 3 18 seconds into the quarter to tie the game. It was one of two 3-ball's on the night made by NR-S, but would come at the perfect time.
With Ulrich being keyed into in the paint, Berglund began to take over in the post. When Ulrich's shots wouldn't fall, Berglund would be there for the put-away. In the second half, the guard would finish with seven points, for a grand total of 13 in the game.
"Nick's the garbage guy. He's the player every coach wants," Cook said. "You don't have to draw up a bunch of plays for him and he just does all the dirty work. He's going to give 1000 percent effort every time and that's shows by him getting a lot of rebounds and easy buckets."
And then down the stretch, when points under the net were getting harder and harder to find for NR-S, Grann gave the Rockets life to give them a chance. He would lead the Rockets in the fourth quarter in scoring with seven points, for an overall total of 11 in the game. NR-S isn't a heavy shoot team from deep but has turned its height into production on the scoreboard. Averaging a height of 6-foot-1-inch, the Rockets have pounded out four wins this season through strength in the paint.
"We're not a high volume 3-point shooting team," Cook said. "We didn't shoot well the first half and Johnny made a couple of shots down the stretch to give us a chance to win at the end. Like I told the boys, I'll live with Johnny shooting a wide-open 3 at the end of the game any day of the week."
Despite not shooting well from outside the arc, the Rockets didn't have a problem guarding the arc throughout the game, diminishing the Squrriels pace from outside the arc throughout the game. Central Cass shot hot in the first quarter, but that pace would slow down as the Squrriels would down five more 3's to shoot 9-20 on the night.
"They got hot early on and they made four in the first half," Cook said. "A couple of them were closeout, but the other ones were contested. Like I told the kids, you close out, have a hand in their face and they make it, you tap them on the butt and say good shot and go the other way."
In a tight game where one slip up could prove costly, the Rockets are looking to improve on their pos game, even more, preventing second-chance points from their opponents. They move on to another challenge at No. 8 Shiloh Chrisitan on Jan. 4, who is coming off a loss to No. 6 L/E/M on Monday. Similar to Central Cass, the Rockets are preparing for another battle where every basket matters.
The feeling after the game in the Rockets locker room after the final buzzer was somewhat somber, but the team is looking at the finish as fuel for their fire going forward.
"They're down a little bit, which is expected," Cook said. "When you lose a close battle like that when they play their hearts out is tough, but what I've tried to get across to them is that we played a dang good basketball team and we were right there. One-shot, make, or miss. We have nothing to hang our heads about."