ROANOKE – Coming into Jan. 18's Tri-County Conference contest, the DePue boys’ basketball team entered on a 10-game losing streak by an average margin of nearly 16 points.
Conversely, Roanoke-Benson won all five matchups at Dick Broers Gymnasium, including four by double digits.
Very few could have predicted the Little Giants would leave on the winning side, but they did, as DePue upset the Rockets 53-50.
R-B (14-8, 4-2) allowed the guests to make six of their first 12 shots from the floor, as DePue (7-16, 2-4) led 17-16 at the close of the first quarter.
“Our off the ball defense was not engaged,” commented Rockets’ coach Abe Zeller. “Our help line was not where it needed to be. They did a good job of trying to make Luke (Braman) guard.”
The Rockets led 32-24 after one of two Braman free throws and went into intermission on top 32-27.
According to Zeller, he sensed one spurt could put the game on ice.
“I said at halftime the run is coming. We’re going to create separation,” he forecasted. “It never came. We did not have any killer instinct. Give credit to DePue. They’re scrappy.”
Even though R-B had the height advantage with the 6-foot-8 Braman, they never really dominated the paint area like they should have.
“That’s what we wanted to do,” Zeller said. “There were times where we should have got him (Braman) the ball. They did a good job collapsing on him. There were times we got to the rim and times we did not. We were stagnant on too many occasions.”
With the game tied at 50, Marcus Winfert drove the lane and scored a field goal while being fouled in the act of shooting. He nailed the free throw to give the Little Giants a 53-50 with 10.3 seconds left.
Following an R-B timeout, the Rockets came down on offense. Jordan Huschen got a good look at a three-ball from the top of the key, but it was off the mark. DePue secured the rebound and ran out the remaining second and a half for their first victory since Dec. 14.
Winfert was the game’s high scorer with 21 points, while Devin Borostowski and Jonathan Raya added 11 each. R-B put four starters into double figures, as Huschen had 14 points, Braman 11 and 10 apiece for brothers Jack and Jake Weber.
Still, the Rockets’ camp was mystified falling at home to a team who came in nine games under .500.
“Sometimes in life, things do not go your way,” summed up Zeller, “I thought Fieldcrest was our one bad beat game, but now we have two. Credit DePue for crawling back in it. They were more physical than us. I think we just got a good ole fashioned butt whipping.”
Notes: DePue graduated all five starters from the core group that went 55-7 over the past two seasons that included a regional title two years ago and the league regular season and tourney crowns last year. Meanwhile, R-B returned their top six players from a season ago.