Rockets consolidate position as one of the county’s best and prove height isn’t everything

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Rockets consolidate position as one of the county’s best and prove height isn’t everything

Katie Spencer

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After a grueling battle of agility against height, the RM boys varsity basketball team beat the Whitman Vikings 65-55 at home on Tuesday night. The victory secured the team’s position at the top of both the region and section standings, and second in the county rankings.

It was clear from the start that the game would not be won with height. Whitman’s Max Oppenheim, one of four Vikings towering above 6’7”, provided ample competition under the basket as Whitman sought to take the lead after tip-off. However, the Rockets took to a different tactic as the ball found senior Jashon Hawkins beyond the three-point arch for consecutive contributions at a distance.

With the score neck and neck through the first quarter, the Rockets used quick ball movement to their advantage as they passed to open players. An offensive possession was cut short by a miscommunication, but RM recovered and used the experience to fight back. The pressure put on the Vikings made it difficult for them to inbound, and forced them to throw the ball away on several occasions. At the end of the quarter, Whitman held the lead by three, 11-14.

The quick break in the action gave the Rockets the necessary time to recover and establish their approach to Whitman’s overwhelming height. The only strategy of the night was “guarding the post,” explained Coach Breslaw. “We knew we’d be stronger at the guard position.”

The second quarter commenced as both teams intensified their play. Strong man-on-man defense kept the Vikings outside the paint and the ball was prevented from reaching their post players. Junior guard Daryn Alexander was unstoppable on offense as he cut through the Whitman barricade and effortlessly threw up shots from under the basket. With an improvement to rebounding, it was almost as if the height gap had disappeared. Rockets players showcased their agility as they jumped up for the ball and reached even higher than the Vikings’ center. At the half, the Rockets led 27-24.

Due to a combination of clean play and forbearing referees, the pace of the game picked with the absence of fouls. When things became heated, Alexander would stall the speed of the action by holding the ball before executing the play. “Coach just told us to slow down and stick to the game plan,” described Hawkins.

Deeper into the third quarter, Whitman cycled in some of their taller players in attempt to hinder the Richard Montgomery offense. It was too late, for the Rockets had seized the momentum to increase the comfort of their lead. Senior Jordan Stover was able to put up numbers in the paint, despite being double-teamed by a frustrated Whitman defense. With a minute left in the quarter, Will Brown was fouled on his basket and made the and-one as well. At the break, RM held onto a more convincing lead of 48-31 over the Vikings.

In the fourth quarter, Whitman made a last endeavor for a comeback, but it was no use. The Rockets exploited their opponents’ mistake of centralizing their defense as distance shooters stood behind the arch only waiting for the pass. Whitman’s parting attempt brought no shortage of interceptions for either team. On one occasion, junior Daryn Alexander snatched the ball from the unknowing Vikings and spanned the court uncontested before finishing with a dunk. While Whitman tightened up the score gap, the Rockets held off long enough for a final score of 65-55.

Richard Montgomery celebrated their victory as the buzzer signaled the end of the game. The Rockets truly proved their athletic ability over the Vikings despite being challenged by their size. “I just think that we played together,” reflected Hawkins, who led scoring contributions with an impressive 22 points.

The team wishes to continue this winning streak as they take on the 4-7 BCC Barons away this Friday night at 7pm.

Featured photo by Eric Goldwein (Washington Post)