Boys basketball: Eagles hold off Rockets at Taylorville

TAYLORVILLE — Playing sluggish for nearly the entire game, the Rantoul Township High School boys basketball team needed a jolt.

Or a 3-pointer.

The energy never quite arrived for the Eagles against Rochester in the squad's final game at the second annual Taylorville Holiday Tournament on Friday evening.

But two 3-pointers by RTHS junior guard Johnny Jones did in the final three minutes to propel the Eagles to a 47-40 win against the Rockets.

"We really didn't come out with any energy," Jones said. "We were ready to go home. Against good teams, we play better. It's been like that since we've been playing together at Eater (Junior High). We play down to team's levels. We need to come out with better intensity."

And better shooting. The Eagles missed their first 10 shots from the field, and wound up 16-of-45 (36 percent) for the game.

Junior guard James Coleman's 3-pointer with 2:01 left in the first quarter was the first basket for RTHS (6-9), which trailed 9-0 in the game's first five minutes.

Rochester (1-7) led the entire first half, but the game was tied at 22 after two quarters. The Rockets — who were paced by junior center Matt Swaine's game-high 16 points and four blocked shots — went into the fourth quarter ahead 35-31.

The Eagles' defense clamped down in the final eight minutes, holding Rochester to only 2-of-12 shooting (and 15-of-42 for the game, a 36 percent clip) in the fourth quarter.

Jones (10 points) hit his first trey from the right wing with three minutes left to give RTHS a 39-37 lead. Just under a minute later — 53 seconds to be precise — Jones canned another 3-pointer from the top of the key to put RTHS up 42-37.

Junior guard Talon Hardin (team-high 12 points) and senior forward Cord Church (six points, five rebounds) also contributed for the Eagles, whose 10-0 run in the fourth quarter was just enough to put away Rochester.

The Eagles are now off until 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5, in a nonconference game at Paxton-Buckley-Loda, but they can take solace in having won two straight games after an 0-3 start at the Taylorville Holiday Tournament. That said, RTHS head coach Brett Frerichs would undoubtedly like to see a better performance from his team the next time out.

"We're nowhere near a good enough team to think we can just step out on the floor and think we can beat teams," Frerichs said. "When we know we're an underdog going into games, we get up for it a little more. We've got to try to find a way to break that."

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