Wednesday, 19 February 2020 22:37

Rockets finish as SEMSAC runner-up, drop title game to West Hoke

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RAEFORD — Contending for their first Southeastern Middle School Athletic Conference title since 2016, the Rockingham Middle School boys’ basketball team played top-seeded West Hoke on Wednesday.

The No. 2 Rockets would come up short in the championship game, suffering just their second loss of the season. The No. 1 Tigers clinched the title on the hardwood at Hoke County High School in a 60-30 decision.

Both of Rockingham’s losses during their 9-2 campaign came at the hands of the Tigers. West Hoke completed a perfect season, going 11-0.

“It was a tough game, but my guys played hard all night,” second-year head coach Julius Bowden said. “Any time you have to play a game against a good team without your leading scorer, it’s going to be tough.

“I could have made some better adjustments,” he added. “But overall, West Hoke was the better team tonight.”

Bowden said the Rockets’ leading scorer, eighth grader Paul McNeil, was out due to a “medical issue.”

Rockingham couldn’t overcome McNeil’s absence, who had scored 19 points in the team’s semifinal round win over No. 6 Carver Middle School last Thursday.

Leading the Rockets on the scoresheet against the Tigers were eighth graders Jaziah Liles and Jada Zimmerman, both of whom notched a team-high six points. Fellow eighth grader Talan Stoner closed his middle school career with five points, including the team’s only three-pointer.

In the first quarter, the Rockets netted nine points and finished tied at the end of the 10 minute period. Zimmerman scored his first three points, while Stoner, James Eason and Bobby Little each added a field goal.

But just six points in the second quarter by the visiting team saw the Tigers pull ahead 32-15 following a 23-point quarter. West Hoke used five different players to extend its lead, including three triples.

Liles recorded his first four points in the second, while a Zimmerman field goal accounted for the other two.

Rockingham’s defense slowed the Tigers’ scoring in the third, holding West Hoke to just nine points. Stoner tallied his three-pointer and Liles and Little helped the Rockets keep pace with two more points apiece. 

Trailing 42-26 to start the final stanza, Rockingham was outscored 18-4 to close the game and its season. 

Noah Jenks hit a free throw and a field goal for all three of his points, while Zimmerman capped his night with a shot from the charity stripe.

“We had a great season,” Bowden closed. “I just hate to see it end like this.”

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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