‘Will to win’ propels Rockets past West Hoke

Girls Middle School Basketball

Rockingham caps 2nd straight undefeated season

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery: More than 900 snapshots!

ROCKINGHAM — Ralayah McCrae couldn’t buy a free throw in the first quarter. She was o-for-5. It didn’t end that way.

After the game, Rockingham coach Theresa Mason talked about the Rockets’ “will to win.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Taliah Wall shoots for two of her six points.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Taliah Wall shoots for two of her six points.

Unlike some fair weather fans inside the packed gymnasium at Rockingham Middle School, though, Mason never had any doubt — not even more than midway through the first quarter, when the Rockets had a measly two-point advantage over team they’d clobbered by 30 points a month earlier.

But Mason wanted to remind her top-seeded Rockets that she believed in them and in their ability to complete a second consecutive Southeastern Middle School Conference championship and undefeated season. Her eighth-graders had not yet lost a game under her tenure; there was no reason to start now.

Exactly what Mason said during the full timeout just three minutes and two seconds into Thursday afternoon’s championship tilt against the second-ranked Tigers remains a mystery to Mason and the Rockets. Whatever it was, it worked. Rockingham pulled out of a lull, dusted away the cob webs from a week of no competition — whatever reason or excuse one cares to consider — and opened up the game with  16-2 run en route to a 46-15 victory.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Ralayah McCrae overcame a slow start Thursday to score a game-high 17 points in the Rockets' 46-15 victory over West  Hoke for the conference title.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Ralayah McCrae overcame a slow start Thursday to score a game-high 17 points in the Rockets’ 46-15 victory over West Hoke for the conference title.

The result was eerily similar to the contest on Jan. 15, when the Rockets led 32-7 at halftime that led to a 47-17 win.

This time, the Rockets led 23-8 at intermission. And there was no looking back.

The route started towards the end of the first quarter — after the motivational timeout — when Allexis Swiney hit two straight buckets in a 33-second span for a 6-4 advantage. McCrae connected on a contested layup and then Keionna Love hit a jumper with 1:02 left in the first period for a 10-4 lead.

The route was on.

“The best offense is a good defense,” Mason said. She was right, of course, and the 22-year veteran coach pitched the idea to her charge. They listed intently.

Rockingham limited West  Hoke to a single field goal — a 3-pointer by strong-armed Kiya Locklear — and a free throw in the second quarter while the Rockets continued their scoring ways. McCrae scored eight of her game-high 17 points in the second quarter to key a pull-away spurt.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rockingham coach Theresa Mason talked about her team's focus on defense, which limited West Hoke to a single field goal in the second quarter.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rockingham coach Theresa Mason talked about her team’s focus on defense, which limited West Hoke to a single field goal in the second quarter.

Swiney and Keionna Love joined McCrae in double figures. Swiney finished with 11 and Love with 10 in the win. Taliah Wall added six points and Emily Parsons chipped in with a breakaway layup in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. McCrae finished 5-for-12 from the charity stripe.

Mason, who completed her 22nd year of coaching the Rockets, said it’s not the first time her teams have completed back-to-back championship seasons. But each one is different, and there’s no way she’ll take it for granted.

Mason faulted a high level of nerves for her team’s early struggles.

“I think we ind of rushed it a little bit too much,” Mason said of free throws and field goals. “In the beginning, it was rough. I know my girls were a little bit nervous. Sometimes it takes us just making the first basket.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Ralayah McCrae and Taliah Wall celebrate their team's Southeastern Middle School Conference championship.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Ralayah McCrae and Taliah Wall celebrate their team’s Southeastern Middle School Conference championship.

That was coupled with a no-holds-barred effort from the Tigers, who had nothing to lose.

“They were extremely aggressive,” Mason said.

 

 

Click on image for larger version

Click on image for larger version

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, Rockingham, Sports

You might like:

GAP program fills a hole for ‘hands-on’ experience GAP program fills a hole for ‘hands-on’ experience
Sit back for an ‘interesting story’ Sit back for an ‘interesting story’
Cash available for crime-solving tips Cash available for crime-solving tips
Rotruck sues Town of Summerfield Rotruck sues Town of Summerfield
© 8209 The Pee Dee Post. All rights reserved. XHTML / CSS Valid.