By Randy Gregory
Rockford was hot from long range early and hot from in close late as they topped Byron Center 56-41 in the semifinals of the Cornerstone University High School Holiday Tournament on Thursday, January 3rd. With the win the Rams evened their overall record at 3-3 on the season and advanced to the Gold Division finals against Forest Hills Eastern.
The Rams buried eight three-pointers in the opening half and eventually pushed their lead to 19 points (30-11) before taking a 33-20 lead into the locker room. Leading the way for Rockford was senior forward Chase Fairchild who netted four trifectas on the day and finished with a game high 19 points.
“We played some solid basketball in the opening half with great ball movement,” said Rockford coach Nick Allen. “We cooled off a little bit in the second half but we were able to make some adjustments to the way they were defending us and were able to secure the win.”
The second half found the Rams facing extreme difficulties offensively in the opening stages. Their once imposing lead dwindled all the way down to 37-31 after the third stanza. The Rams couldn’t make a shot and turned the ball over repeatedly during that time frame. The scoring drought covered more than half of the third quarter and gave rise to renewed hope from the Byron Center partisans.
But a quick 6-0 spurt from the Rams to open the final quarter pushed the lead back to 43-31 and the balance of the contest was a clinic offensively as Rockford continuously burned the Bulldogs with back door cuts. The lead grew gradually from that point before settling at the final fifteen point deficit for the Bulldogs.
Chad Carlson had a quiet night in the scoring column with eight points, but was the catalyst from his point guard slot with eight assists.
“Chad (Carlson) and Chase (Fairchild) are our two senior leaders who the other kids look to when things get tight,” said Allen. “They really rose to the occasion and made the big plays when we needed them. We found a way to refocus offensively when the threes stopped dropping and came out with the win.”
Robert Holmes had a solid night for Rockford with 14 points and Casey Watters chipped in with ten to aid the cause.