Rochester races past Laurel
Rochester (70) Vs. Laurel (43)
By JOE SAGER
In the season’s stretch run, a lot of unknowns remain in the WPIAL Section 2-AA boys basketball race.
However, one thing is for certain — no one can hang with Rochester High.
The Rams put on another dominant performance last night in a 70-43 triumph at Laurel.
“They are an outstanding team. They have size, quickness, guards who can shoot and an inside game,” Spartans coach Mike Tinstman said. “We don’t have a lot of the things they have. So, we knew going into the game that we needed to try to be patient, get the good shot, recover, box out and try to the do the things that we needed to do, but we didn’t.
“It was obvious that we were never really in the ballgame. I am disappointed with that. I was expecting to be in a competitive situation. I am disappointed we didn’t come out to play a little better in the first half. But, all the credit goes to Rochester because they came out and did what they wanted to do. When you get behind a team like that, it’s very difficult. You have to play a very good game and we just didn’t get the job done.”
It was yet another strong outing for Rochester (8-0 section, 16-1 overall), which locked up a playoff berth. The Rams blew past the Spartans (5-3, 9-5), 82-33, on Dec. 22 at home. Laurel is not alone, though, as Rochester has unleashed its wrath on every section foe and won all of its circuit encounters by an average 74-43 margin.
Meanwhile, the Spartans dipped into a third-place tie with Summit Academy in the loop. New Brighton (5-2) is in second. Mohawk (2-6), Shenango (1-6) and Riverside (1-7) are on the outside looking in for the postseason, but are not mathematically eliminated yet. The top four teams in each section earn playoff berths.
“You don’t see too many teams like Rochester in our league. I give them credit. They play very good defense and don’t give you anything easy,” Tinstman said. “In some games, you can get away with certain passes, but if you try that against them, they’ll go down in transition. When we did miss, they were up at the rim. We’re not a big team anyway, so you have to box out. We didn’t box out. We have to do that and that’s disappointing. We know what we have to do, but we just didn’t do it.”
Rochester benefits from an explosive offense, featuring 6-foot-4 senior Terry Gettings, 6-3 junior E.J. Blackwell and 6-6 junior Giovanni Ellis, an Avonworth transfer. Blackwell led the Rams with 23 points, while Ellis had 15 and Gettings added 12 against the Spartans. Blackwell had 11 points at halftime as the guests posted a 34-16 lead.
“E.J. is a good player, as far as slashing. That’s what I want him to do,” Rochester coach Paul Long said. “Sometimes, he comes down and takes that far shot. His game is slashing — driving and dishing. He does a good job with it.”
However, the Rams’ best asset may be their defense. They play a suffocating man-to-man approach and will trap when necessary.
“We have been playing man-to-man and we do a good job at it, to be honest with you,” Long said. “We help each other; our big men help our guards if they get beat and they block shots. Everybody is there to help each other out. They just do a great job. I like the way we work.”
Rochester’s work ethic remains strong, even though they have been involved in few close games this year. The Rams’ only loss came to Quaker Valley, 64-62, at the Penn State-Beaver tournament championship on Dec. 29. Rochester has won its last nine frays since tasting defeat.
“I am very happy. They haven’t lost any firepower at all. They come out here and they are intense and serious,” Long said. “They enjoy what they do and they have fun in the locker room and stuff, but when they come out to the floor, they are very serious. They support each other; they all have each other’s back and that’s a big plus.”
Jake Dando led Laurel with 11 points.
The Spartans face another tough task tonight when they visit Neshannock for a non-section game.
“Neshannock is an outstanding team and is having a lot of success in their league. They have size and shooting — they have it all. So, we’ll have our hands full against them,” Tinstman said. “Hopefully, we can get over this game and respond. If we don’t go over there prepared, it could be a difficult situation.”