MANCHESTER – The ladies had their turn on the hardwood last Friday night at North Adams High School, but this past weekend it was the men’s turn to take the court.
The entirety of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference travelled to Manchester High School for the boys’ basketball preview, and Ripley’s bout with Fayetteville may have been the most competitive of all five games.
Four early points from senior Cole Schaefer helped get the Rockets started, though the game remained close throughout the two quarters the teams played. The Rockets held an 11-10 lead after the first quarter, but Ripley jumped in front 13-10 on a three-pointer by junior Josh Deaton. Deaton would hit another three-pointer in the quarter and finish the night with six points.
It came down to a photo-finish. Ripley hit a pair of free-throws to tie the game with less than 45 seconds left, but Fayetteville senior Max Iles hit a three-pointer from the corner to give the Rockets what would turn out to be the winning margin in their 26-23 victory.
Iles finished with eight points, all of which came in the second quarter. That tied him with sophomore Zak Smyth for the team lead. Luke Wiederhold chipped in six while Schaefer added four.
Deaton and senior Zach Adams, who finished with five, led the Blue Jays.
Head coach Marty Adams said the Rockets’ pace took time to get adjusted to, and his team will have to react faster as the season goes on.
“Yeah they like to get out and go,” Adams said. “It was key for us to get back in transition and we weren’t doing it at times so they got some easy looks. We’ve got to work on that a bit.”
Smyth caused problems for the Blue Jays, who don’t have a lot of size to compete with some of the bigger teams in the league. Rockets head coach Darryl Iles said Smyth can do a lot of things for his team offensively.
“Zac’s six-foot-four, he can dribble the ball a little bit and he can shoot,” Iles said. “He’s a pretty good force for us.”
Adams noted Smyth’s size was a problem at times for his team, but the squad will have to adjust throughout the season.
“He gave us trouble,” Adams said. “Six-three is the biggest we go, then we drop down to six foot after that. So we’ll play four guards a lot. We’ve got to do a better job of fronting and getting to the help side.”
Iles complimented the Jays on their performance in the game, as the Blue Jays prevented the Rockets from getting to the tempo they wanted.
“They played really well,” Iles said. “I thought we’d be able to control the game a little better earlier on but they plowed right in there and it was a great game.”
Tempo is important for Fayetteville. While the football team prefers to keep the ball on the ground, the basketball squad wants to do the opposite and pass the ball quickly.
“We’re going to try to get it out and go,” Iles said. “We tell them one or two dribbles and you’re passing the basketball. I didn’t think we shared it very well tonight, but we’ll work on that.”
The Blue Jays have some things to work on as well, but according to Adams, getting the team to buy in won’t be a problem.
“The first month of practice has been great,” Adams said. “They guys have been talking and communicating on the defensive end and on offense it’s been great. They’re all listening and working together. We’ve got 12, 13 players and they all could see significant minutes and they don’t care as long as we win. They’re buying in to every thing.”
Ripley opens the regular season Friday, November 27 with a road contest against the Batavia Bulldogs. The Rockets begin their season on the road against Blanchester Tuesday, December 1.