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MENDOTA — Jan Thompson couldn’t hide his frustration following Friday’s 68-60 loss to Rock Falls.
His Mendota boys basketball team was so close, yet so far away.
Despite trailing for most of Friday’s Big Northern Conference West Division game in Mendota, the Trojans were close and within striking distance all game while Rock Falls senior star Steven Armoska battled foul trouble.
However, Mendota couldn’t get over the hump and committed costly turnovers down the stretch as it fell.
“We played really hard for 32 minutes, but we didn’t exactly play smart for 32 minutes,” Thompson said. “That’s something that’s been a problem for us since Day 1.
“I really felt that Austin O’Sadnick played a pretty good game tonight. I thought Evan Carroll played a pretty good game tonight. However, defensively, some guys didn’t really think about what they were doing at times. … Sometimes we just need to get our heads screwed on straight and take care of that stuff. I don’t know what else to do right now. We are just going to go back to practice and work on it. We don’t have a lot of games to get it right, but we’ve got to get it right here soon.”
MHS (14-9, 2-6 BNC West) fell behind just 1:50 into the game and never led after having a 2-0 advantage.
However, the Trojans continued to battle and trailed by five early in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, Mendota could never capitalize and pull closer as seven fourth-quarter turnovers stalled its attack. The Trojans had 11 total turnovers in the first three quarters.
“We couldn’t get over that hump,” Thompson said. “That’s details and not doing the little things. We get ourselves close, but then we break down, don’t do something very smart and then the other team makes a run at us.”
After Armoska scored 15 points but picked up two fouls in the first half, the Rockets senior post scored just three points in the third quarter as he sat for the final 4:23 after picking up his third foul.
However, with its star on the bench, Rock Falls (16-5, 5-3) managed to stay afloat and not let the Trojans close than three points.
When Armoska returned to start the fourth quarter, Rock Falls held a 52-45 lead. “That’s a credit to our kids,” said first-year Rock Falls coach Brad Bickett, the longtime Bureau Valley coach who still teaches at BV. “When you have a player of Steven’s caliber who averages 20 (points) and eight (rebounds), some teams could just fold, but we didn’t.”
The Trojans never trailed by more than seven points in the first three quarters and had a chance to take an early lead in the third quarter, but a 3-point shot by MHS senior Jon Gehm missed.
The Rockets slowly increased the lead in the fourth quarter as Mendota’s offense stalled with missed shots and costly turnovers.
“Sometimes we’re a team that (starts strong) and scores a bunch, but then we let the other team run right back at us,” Bickett said. “I thought tonight we were steady and held a little distance, even though we never felt safe.”
Armoska finished with a game-high 22 points, while Evan Carroll had a team-high 17 points for MHS.
Blumhorst scored 11 second-half points and had 10 rebounds for the Trojans, while O’Sadnick grabbed 13 rebounds to go with eight points.
Note: The Mendota sophomore team fell to Rock Falls 38-35. Mendota’s Ryan Reeder scored a team-high 10 points but missed a desperation game-tying 3-point shot at the buzzer.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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