On Homecoming night at Clermont Northeastern, the Rockets were able to come from as many as 14 points down to knock off Southern Buckeye Conference foe Goshen in impressive fashion on Friday, Jan. 13, 53-51.
In the first quarter, Goshen came out with more intensity throwing a man-press at the Rockets and forcing some early mistakes.
CNE was able to respond with a couple of baskets from Alex Gilkerson and Lucas Wolfe, keeping the Rockets in the game and tying the game at 10 after the first quarter.
Although Clermont was able to stick right with Goshen through one, the second quarter turned out to be all Warriors as Ryan Ashcraft scored eight points in the period to lead the Goshen attack.
“It’s been a tale of two teams, we come out in the first half and we either play basketball or we’re not ready to play,” Rockets’ head coach Jason Iles said. “We came out the second quarter kind of lazy and got in some foul trouble. It comes down to making our bunnies; we missed some layups and free throws in the second quarter and just struggled getting the ball in the basket.”
Goshen had no such problems, out-scoring the Rockets 19-5 in the second quarter. Aside from Ashcraft’s play from outside the arc, junior forward Nick Messer made his presence known inside the paint.
As Goshen started to pull away, CNE was dealt another blow as their leading scorer, Gilkerson picked up his third foul with three minutes to go in the half.
“Gilkerson has probably been the heart and soul of our team,” Iles said, “but the kids really responded when he had to take a seat on the bench. I ran a freshman in there, two juniors in there, it was a good team win.
“We explained to [Gilkerson] that he needs to be a better basketball player than picking up cheap fouls and he knew it. He got emotionally tied up in the game and you can’t get on a kid for playing with his heart.”
With their leading scorer on the bench, CNE watched as Goshen scored the last 12 points of the half to open up a 29-15 lead going into the break.
“I went into the locker room and really got on them,” Iles said. “I told my seniors that it’s time to step up.”
The Rockets got Iles message loud and clear, coming out with a sense of urgency that wasn’t evident in the first half.
“I’ve got a great coaching staff and we knew that we had to make some sort of adjustment,” Iles explained. “We saw that the ball-handling for Goshen was a little weak and we decided to throw a zone press at them.
“All of the sudden, our kids bought in, they woke up and they were ready to play basketball.”
The extended trapping zone forced Goshen into cross-court passes that the Rockets were able to pick off and turn into scoring chances.
Even with the new-found energy, Goshen did their best to weather the Rocket burst, holding onto a nine-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, 38-29.
CNE wouldn’t go quietly, however and Lucas Wolfe put the Rockets right back into the game with an early three-pointer and then a drive to the basket that drew a foul.
Patrick Cornett, a junior forward for CNE, stepped up big time in the fourth quarter, making steals and getting to the basket. Cornett ended the game with seven steals, a stat Iles was very impressed with, especially considering Cornett was coming off the bench.
Cornett made one of his seven steals with 6:05 remaining in the game and finished the layup to knot the score at 38 a piece.
Even with momentum swinging to CNE’s favor, the Warriors were still fighting for the win. Missing two key players to injury, Goshen showed their resilience as Ashcraft and company tried to hold off CNE, building three and four-point leads only to see them disappear.
For CNE’s side, Wolfe stepped up in the second half and was a key piece in the Rockets’ comeback, hitting four of his five three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“Wolfe’s a great player, he’s one of the most coachable kids I have on the team,” Iles said after the game. “It seems like he comes everyday ready to play, ready to practice, but sometimes he needs a reminder.
“We looked to get him the ball and we knew he was hot, so we continued to run a set for him to where he could get a good look. We would get a ball-reversal and he was able to go to the hoop.”
Being in the bonus for most of the fourth quarter, free throws turned out to be key for the Rockets. Clermont was able to hit 18-30 from the charity stripe, something Iles thinks that when we they attack, they can convert from the line.
The Rockets were throwing everything at Goshen except the kitchen sink, but the Warriors were still right there in crunch time.
When it looked like CNE was on the verge of putting the game away, up four with the ball and less than two minutes on the clock, Goshen got a key rebound and Ashcraft hit a three to cut the lead to one, 50-49 with 50.9 second remaining.
CNE hit one of two free throws, but got the offensive rebound, forcing Goshen to foul again.
Goshen allowed the Rockets to move the ball until it was passed Alex Edwards, whom they fouled with 32.4 seconds remaining. Edwards hit one-of-two to give the Rockets a three-point lead.
Goshen got the ball up-court quickly in search of a two, but the CNE defense stopped them at every advance. Ashcraft forced up a three, but Messer was under the hoop to put back the miss and cut the lead to one, 52-51 with 6.6 seconds remaining.
Goshen fouled Wolfe right away, sending the senior to the foul line with 4.9 seconds remaining.
Wolfe hit one of two, still leaving the door open for Goshen. With CNE giving Ashcraft a little on-ball pressure, he wasn’t able to get up court as fast as Goshen would have liked, settling for a 40-foot shot for the win that missed everything, giving Clermont their fourth win of the season.
“We get after it everyday in practice. We stepped back after starting 0-4 and found out what we did well and what we didn’t. We changed up our practice plan and made some adjustments. We’re starting to get on a bit of a roll. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
The Rockets get back on the court again on Friday, Jan. 20 against Bethel-Tate.
After starting 3-1, Goshen has gone on a bit of a skid, losing five of their last six as they deal with injuries to Kyle Wake and Austin Fischer.
The Warriors have a week off and will host New Richmond on Jan. 20.
Goshen:(4-6) – Smith 1 2 5, Ashcraft 5 2 17, Taylor 2 1 5, Edwards 2 0 5, Messer 6 1 13, Shock 3 0 6. Totals: 19 6 51.
CNE: (4-7) – Teaney 1 5 8, Schmidt 1 4 6, Cornett 3 6 12, Gilkerson 2 1 7, Wolf 7 2 20. Totals: 14 18 53.
Halftime: Goshen 29-15. 3-pointers: G 7 (Smith, Ashcraft 5, Edwards); C 7 (Teaney, Wolf 4, Gilkerson 2).