By Justin Haggerty
The Rockets have averaged nearly 55 points per game, which is a lot in girls prep basketball. They’ve scored less than 45 points just once, in a loss to Oakridge in December.
On Friday R-P traveled to Muskegon to duel with the Big Reds, who came into the game with a five-game win streak.
The Rocket offense stayed true to form, improving their scoring average and escaping Redmond-Potter Gymnasium with a 62-53 win.
The game was a showdown between two of the top three teams in the O-K Black. Mona Shores, which lost to Muskegon last week, is the third serious contender.
“I thought both basketball teams played really hard,” said R-P Coach Brandon Barry, whose team improved to 8-1 overall and 2-0 in the conference. “I was really proud of our kids to come into Muskegon after they kind of put it to Shores last week.
“I was a little bit nervous about walking into their home court and playing such a good group of athletes.”
R-P jumped out to a 6-2 lead on the strength of two three-pointers by Elysia Mattos.
Muskegon All-Stater Mardrekia Cook came out strong, scoring seven of her team’s nine first quarter points, but the Big Reds trailed 11-9 at the first buzzer.
Cook finished with 13 of her team’s 17 points in the first half, and finished with 31 points to go with her 16 rebounds.
“I’m going to be rooting for Mardrekia because she’s going to Michigan State next year,” Barry said. “She’s one heck of a player. When she gets going, it’s so hard to stop her in that seam.”
But Cook was no match for the 3-point shooting of the Rockets.
R-P hit three triples in the first half, led by Mattos with three, to take Reeths-Puffer into the locker room with a 26-17 halftime lead.
“I just thought we had absolutely no energy tonight starting the game,” said Muskegon coach Rodney Walker, whose team dropped to 5-2 and 1-1. “Reeths-Puffer was the most disciplined team tonight. They did everything exactly the way they needed to win this game.”
The second half was no different, with the Rockets hitting four more three-pointers in the third quarter.
Each time the Big Reds closed the gap, Reeths-Puffer was there to answer. R-P junior Becca Bride hit a field goal with just three second left to extend the lead to 13 points, 45-32.
Despite being down by 13 entering the fourth quarter, Walker did not let his team give in.
Muskegon trimmed the lead to just two points, 48-46, with 4:26 remaining, hitting two from beyond the arc and making two free throw attempts.
Unfortunately for the home fans, the comeback fell short.
Reeths-Puffer responded by going three-for-three from the field and hitting eight free throws down the stretch to put the victory on ice.
“I thought we picked it up a little bit in the fourth quarter there,” Walker said. “Unfortunately, we spotted them too many points.”
Cook finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds for Muskegon.
Brooke Larabee led the victorious Rockets with 18 points and Mattos added 17. Delaney Bolles grabbed 11 rebounds for Reeths-Puffer.