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La Salle-Peru senior Manny Pagan (No. 3) pulls his jersey over his face while Rock Falls celebrates their 65-59 Class 3A La Salle-Peru Regional quarterfinal win. The loss ends the Cavaliers season with a 10-17 record. NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
La Salle-Peru senior Kaleb Jakse (center) goes up for a layup in Monday’s Class 3A La Salle-Peru Regional quarterfinal 65-59 loss. NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
Rick LaFollette Sports Writer
Austin Donoho and Jacob Mammosser both drained a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to seal an emotional win as Rock Falls slipped past La Salle-Peru 65-59 in a Class 3A La Salle-Peru Regional quarterfinal Monday in La Salle.
The No. 5-seeded Rockets (8-20) will take on No. 1-seeded Mendota at 6 tonight in the semifinals. The Cavaliers, seeded No. 4 in the tourney, finish their season with a 10-17 record.
The evening began with a moment of silence to honor Rock Falls freshman player Matt Anderson, who passed away over the weekend.
The night ended when the large and boisterous Rock Falls contingent of fans flooded the court as the buzzer sounded on the Rockets’ win.
“They’ve been through a lot, and have grown up a bunch this last week,” Rockets’ coach Brad Bickett said. “Life throws these things at you, and you have so many questions on why. This was a great win. And hopefully — part of the healing process.”
Rock Falls, which was down 29-22 at halftime, took its first lead of the second half when Mammosser banked in a 3-point shot to give the Rockets a 56-53 lead with 2:45 left in the game.
Donoho followed with a steal and a layup for the Rockets to stretch their margin to 58-53.
The Cavaliers got as close as 61-59, but a pair of free throws by Mammosser with 26 seconds left and two more from Donoho at 3.9 seconds sealed the win.
“Our kids played their hearts out and just came up a little bit short,” said Cavaliers’ coach Jim Cherveny said. “It was a great game to be a part of. I think we missed a lot of easy shots around the hoop. Plus, we gave up a lot of easy shots around the hoop.”
The contest started slow as neither team scored until James McFadden hit a free throw with 5:25 left in the first quarter to give Rock Falls a 1-0 lead.
Freshman Logan Pillars made it 4-0 for the Rockets when he hit a 3-pointer with 2:30 left. La Salle-Peru finally got on the board with a bucket from Luke Dresbach with 2:05 left in the period to make it 4-2.
The Cavaliers’ offense woke up in the second frame as L-P took the lead at 12-10 on a 3-pointer by Eric Milaicki.
Milaicki’s bucket was the start of a 15-2 run for the Cavaliers. The streak culminated on a basket by Noah Lamboley and gave L-P a 24-12 edge. The Cavs outscored Rock Falls 23-14 in the second period.
La Salle-Peru led by as much as 37-25 in the second half before the Rockets’ began to chip away. Mammosser and Connor Cain each had six points in the third quarter to pull Rock Falls to within 44-39.
“We had guys that were willing to take shots and make free throws,” Bickett said. “They looked pretty fearless down the stretch.”
Donoho led Rock Falls in scoring with 17 points, while Mammosser and Cain added 13 each for the Rockets.
Milaicki led the Cavaliers with 16 points. Lamboley, who missed L-P’s regular-season finale with a case of the flu, added 15 points and Kaleb Jakse finished with 11.
“Both teams had a lot riding on it,” Cherveny said. “They’re the 4 and 5 (rated) teams, and have nothing to lose. So both teams played tight there at the beginning. Slow or fast doesn’t bother me. As long as we put in 32 minutes and try to win the game.”