ROCK FALLS – It was a case of veteran experience vs. inexperienced youth Monday night at Tabor Gym. Veteran experience won handily.
Rock Falls' all-senior starting lineup overwhelmed a Dixon squad that started one senior, one junior and three sophomores, bolting to a 17-0 lead and cruising to a 57-26 win on the first night of the Sauk Valley Shootout.
In both teams' season opener, the Rockets held the Dukes scoreless until the 53-second mark of the first quarter.
Rock Falls used relentless pressure that led to 21 steals to take immediate control. First, Connor Olson scored off a steal. Then, Jace Anderson and Olson (7 points) hit 3-pointers. Austin Babcock added a bucket off a steal before Steven Armoska drained another 3.
Reserves Daegan Wharff (6 points) and Austin Donoho (7 points) also added field goals to make it 17-0 with 1:19 left in the opening quarter.
"This is our game. In practice, we're running nonstop," said Armoska, who scored 10 of his game-high 14 points in the first half. "We get deflections. We take it. We go."
"They started five seniors, and they were much more aggressive than us," Dixon coach Jason Mead said. "We started three sophomores, and it looked like it. Their pressure got to us."
Anderson's buzzer-beating 3 gave the Rockets a 20-2 advantage after one quarter. Rock Falls led 37-10 at the half and 49-17 after three quarters. Its largest lead was 34, and a running clock was in effect much of the second half.
"We were really pumped up and came out and played hard and put it to them," said Anderson, who hit three 3s for his nine points. "We're going to get after it. Defense is the most important thing in the game."
Not a bad debut for Rockets new coach Brad Bickett.
"It was a blast," he said. "It was enjoyable, but it's just one game and we've got a long season ahead of us. But, we played really hard."
Michael Conley and Cal Jarrett led the Dukes with eight points apiece.
Rock Falls also held Dixon to 22 percent (8-for-36) shooting. The Dukes were 0-for-11 from 3-point range.
Star of the game: Steven Armoska, Rock Falls, game-high 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals
Key performers: Jace Anderson, Rock Falls, 3-4 on 3-pointers, 9 points; Michael Conley and Cal Jarrett, Dixon, team-high 8 points apiece
Up next: Sauk Valley Shootout – Newman at Dixon; Princeton at Rock Falls (both 7:30 p.m. today)