SEBRING, OH (WKBN)-In a game that was very physical and hard-fought, the Lowellville Rockets senior guard Tyler Barone scored a game-high 29 points to power his team to a 60-53 victory Friday night over the Sebring Trojans. The win keeps the Rockets on the heels of league leader McDonald with a 8-4 overall mark and 2-1 in the Blue Tier. The Trojans fall to 6-3 and 1-2.
“Every time you come down to Sebring you know you are in for a battle,” Rockets coach Vince Nittoli remarked. “They play everybody hard, they have depth, they have speed, the athleticism, they have it all. And they battle hard every single night so we knew coming down here was going to be a battle.”
“It means everything to come to their place and get a big W like this,” Barone added. “We looked at them as a pressing team just like McDonald. So we figured if we find a way to beat this press we can find a way to beat McDonald’s press. Coming in here in an hostile environment, they’re a good team, they’re physical and to get a win like this means everything right now.”
The Rockets looked to take the early momentum in the game as they raced out to a 10-1 lead at the end of the first quarter. Sebring would not score a basket from the floor until just over seven minutes remaining in the second quarter. But once they did they proceeded to go on a 16-9 run to close to within 2-points with just two minutes remaining in the second quarter at 19-17. But the Rockets would force three consecutive turnovers and convert them into baskets as they would end the first half on a 8-0 run to lead 27-17 at intermission.
“We have some depth, we have some athletes and I let them go. I let them play fast and I let them play hard and we are starting to find our identity,” Nittoli said. “That momentum swing was what I thought would put us where we needed to be, but Sebring fights hard. They are well coached and they are scrappy.”
The Trojans could never get any closer than 5-points in the third quarter at 33-28 with just over two minutes remaining. But when the Rockets Devin Wright converted a basket with 1:05 remaining in the quarter the Rockets enjoyed their biggest advantage of the night at 12-points, 42-30.
Led by junior Robbie Rouse scoring 11 of his 17 game total points in the fourth quarter, the Trojans would mount a spirited comeback attempt in the final frame. The Trojans would cut the deficit down to just 3-points at 50-47 with 2:17 remaining in the game when senior guard Parker Ketler connected on two foul shots. But Barone would convert 5 of 6 foul shots in the final two minutes and also score a basket to seal the win for the Rockets.
“I felt like we took our foot off the gas and then we gave them a chance to get back in there. They are a very good team and we underestimated them for a couple minutes. They almost came back and cost us a game,” Barone admitted.
In addition to the 29 points by Barone he would also grab 8 rebounds. He would hit 9 of 15 foul shots in the game to help lead the scoring on the night. Cole Beatty would also add 11 points and 16 rebounds.
“We try to practice our free throws as much as e can. Coach (Nittoli) does a great job of making us run and come down and throw free throws to simulate a game type situation,” Barone said.
For the Trojans, Rouse would score 17 points while Josh Zmuda added 14. Rouse would also pace the Trojans on the boards with 7 rebounds.
“This was a good learning game for us. We have to practice a little bit harder, we have to focus a little bit more,” Trojans coach Josh Scott said. “I think we have learned what we are capable of and at he same time turnovers and a one point quarter won’t beat a team with one point in the first quarter.”
The Rockets also captured the j-v game, winning by a 40-28 score.