GRANVILLE – A basketball team tries to prepare for everything prior to tip off, but Roanoke-Benson did not expect a junk defense out of DePue.
It worked brilliantly, as the Rockets were limited to single digit field goals in a 51-25 setback to the Little Giants in the Jan. 26 Tri-County Conference championship game at Putnam County’s R.M. Germano Gymnasium.
Defensively, DePue (23-1) normally employs a 2-3 zone, but decided to switch to a box-and-one in an attempt to hold down R-B’s leading scorer, Jake Weber, and his 13.4 points per game average.
The junior guard, who scored 14 points in the first meeting between the squads, did not attempt a single shot over the entire 32 minutes.
“That was very good work by (DePue coach) Charlie (Klinefeiter),” R-B coach Abe Zeller admitted. “He had us rattled. We were not ready for it. We did not practice against it.”
R-B was held to just eight first half points, as they trailed 18-8 at intermission.
The Rockets (14-8) got as close as 23-15 on a three-pointer from Trent Weldon before DePue scored the final nine points of the third quarter to boost the lead back to double digits.
“To be down eight and they go on a 9-0 run was huge,” said Zeller. “To let a team go on a 9-0 run and bump the lead to 17, you cannot do that in a championship game. Credit DePue for being 21-1 and not having lost to an Illinois team.”
The Little Giants, who have won 19 in a row, tasted defeat the day before Thanksgiving, a 73-62 loss to Hillsboro (Mo.) in the Washington Tournament of Champions.
Six-foot-six center and all-TCC tourney choice Rahim McKee-Strong led DePue with 13 points. He was joined on the squad by teammates Eddie Moreno, who hit a three in the fourth quarter to go over 1,000 career points, and Manny Winfert.
Weldon and Jarrett Bline scored eight points apiece for the Rockets, who had Jordan Huschen and Jack Weber make the all-tourney team.
“We had to do a better job of spacing against their other four guys,” said Zeller of dealing with the box-and-one. “The second half we did, but then we had some boneheaded turnovers and some other things not go our way. When we were struggling offensively, it affected us. We’ll learn from it and move on.”
The Rockets converted just nine of 37 shots from the floor for 24 percent.