PANDORA – Earlier in the week Pandora-Gilboa celebrated a share of the Putnam County League title and the Rockets can add an outright Blanchard Valley Conference crown to their trophy case after downing Liberty-Benton 50-40 Saturday night.
The Rockets finish the regular season with an unblemished 9-0 mark in conference play and a 14-7 overall record. Liberty-Benton falls to 16-6 for the year and 7-2 in the BVC.
“That is kudos to our kids,” P-G head coach Mike Lee said. “Like I told them beforehand, this is all the work you have put in beforehand. You don’t get into situations like this unless you are willing to lay it on the line in the off months and our kids have done that and naturally we are super proud of them.”
Coming into the game both teams sported the best defenses in the BVC with the Rockets giving up an average of 40 points a contest and the Eagles yielding around 43 points and so it was no surprise defense dictated the tempo and outcome of the game.
“We knew at this time of the year and considering what was at stake both teams knew everything that was going on both ends of the floor and that makes for a very, very contested game,” Lee said. “We knew it was going to be low scoring. Their kids got after it and our kids got after it.”
The Rockets’ tenacious man-to-man defense continually frustrated the Eagles offense. After the first period, P-G led 10-5 and the low scoring continued into the second stanza as the Rockets went into halftime with a 24-16 advantage.
The Rockets gave themselves some breathing room by limiting the Eagles to four points in the third quarter and opened up a double-digit advantage, 33-20, with eight minutes left in the game.
Eagle Cason Doolittle, who finished with 21 points including 16 in the fourth quarter spearheaded a Liberty-Benton comeback and got his team to within seven points, but the poised Rockets delivered at the free throw line to stave off the late Eagle offensive surge. Pandora-Gilboa was 16 of 21 from the charity stripe.
Lee said he knew the Eagles had some big time scorers and he wanted to key on them.
“It all comes down to communications what you do defensively,” Lee said. “We pretty much man-to-man the whole night but there were certain kids we knew that we knew we could not let go defensively.”
Rocket Aiden Harris, who had 20 points for the game, was 7 of 7 from the free throw line in the final period.
Lee praised the poise of his team on offense to look for the open shot and not rush things.
“There were times there where we had it for 45 seconds to a minute and that is solid defense n their end but we are programmed now to look for certain opportunities to click. We had a couple of nice backdoor cuts that our guys were able to see, Again it wasn’t pretty but at this time of the year a”W” is a “W.” Lee said.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.