By ERIC CLUTTER | CORRESPONDENT
With first place in the Metro Division of the Portage Trail Conference well within their sights, the Streetsboro Rockets continued their strong play Tuesday night at Kent Roosevelt.
Looking to avenge a home-court loss to the Rough Riders in December, the Rockets started strong and finished strong in defeating Roosevelt 52-37.
The victory allowed the Rockets (9-6 overall, 8-2 PTC Metro) to remain one game behind Metro frontrunner Norton with four divisional games remaining, the biggest of which will be two weeks from this Friday when Streetsboro travels to Norton, perhaps with the Metro crown at stake.
"The guys are hungry right now," said Streetsboro coach Nick Marcini after his team's fifth straight Metro victory. "It was the same thing the other night with Ravenna, start out hot and have a lull the second and third quarter. I don't know if you can develop that killer instinct in a week, two weeks or three weeks. We've been preaching it. Hopefully, we can string together four quarters here. If we do, I think we have something special.
"At the end of the day, a win is a win is a win, and we'll take it. I've been telling the guys if you want to win championships, you have to win every game. That's how we've been taking it, one game at a time."
After outscoring the Ravenna Ravens by 15 points in the opening quarter of a win last Friday, the Rockets, behind the long-range shooting of senior Jordan Matusik, soared to a 19-7 lead after one quarter against the Rough Riders. Matusik drilled three 3-pointers in the frame as the visitors led by 15 points late in the period.
"I thought it was going to be a long game," said Roosevelt coach Ben Dunlap of the opening moments. "But I told the guys we gave up three open 3s to Matusik, and other than that, I thought our defense was good in the first quarter. But when you spot the best shooter in the league three open shots, that's nine points. Other than that, I was very, very pleased defensively."
The Rough Riders (4-11 overall, 4-6 Metro) clamped down defensively in the second stanza and used a 6-0 quarter-ending run to reduce the Streetsboro advantage to 28-17 at the intermission.
Roosevelt, behind Joseph Watts' seven points, outscored the Rockets 13-10 in the third quarter to pull within eight points through 24 minutes.
Watts then opened the final frame with a layup at the 7:11 mark that drew Roosevelt with 38-32.
However, as has been the Rough Riders' Achilles' heel throughout the season, scoring became a problem. The Rough Riders' rally came to an immediate end, thanks to a scoring drought that lasted 5:34.
"Any time you hold a team under 40 points, you've done a good job," said Marcini of his team's defensive performance.
"That's been the story of our season," said Dunlap. "Sometimes, I feel like there is a lid on the hoop. I thought tonight we at least got shots, versus last Friday (against Coventry) when we were turning the ball over. We got shots, we just didn't knock them down."
Streetsboro scored the next 10 points before Corey Mitchell hit a jumper to get Roosevelt on the board again.
Matusik finished with 16 points, including four 3s. Junior Devin Rencher had 13 points, while Paul Jenkins and Brandon Gency each supplied eight.
Watts ended the contest with 13 points, while Mitchell tallied nine.
"These guys brought the effort, played defense, were very coachable," said Dunlap of his team. "I really have few complaints."