PILOT ROCK — Other than a first quarter hiccup, the Pilot Rock Rockets didn’t look anything like they were playing in their first game of the 2011-2012 campaign Friday night.
The boys’ basketball team from Pilot Rock (1-0) turned an initially close game into a nasty blowout, pounding the Umatilla Vikings behind rebounds-a-plenty, 76-38 in a non-conference match.
“That was an amazing game (for us),” senior D’Marcus Bowie of Pilot Rock said. “It was just about the best we could have played tonight for only a week and a half of practices.”
“It’s pretty hard to stop us when we rebound like that,” Bowie said. “We’ve got so many players with that athletic ability to get up there.”
Pilot Rock coach Doug Baxter was pleased with his team’s overall performance bringing down rebounded shots; he just would have liked to see far fewer opportunities to do so. His lone knock on the Rockets’ game Friday night was the number of short shots and lay-ups that missed the target.
The first quarter ended with Pilot Rock clinging to a one-point lead 10-9, and if not for a late basket, the team would have met the buzzer trailing. The first quarter was when the Rockets were at their worst shooting the ball, Baxter said. One instance saw Rockets’ players take five swings at the hoop — each from inside the free-throw lane — but none dropped through the iron. The rebounding category could have ended much closer had the Rockets sunk the shots they were supposed to make.
“We didn’t finish at the rim at the beginning of the game,” Baxter said. “We’ll need to to do better there moving forward.”
Umatilla (0-1) never led after the first quarter, trailing by as many as 41 points in the final minutes. Baxter pulled many of his starters before the third quarter was even through, looking to harden his bench players with varsity experience. Bowie scored 19 points in fewer than three quarters of court time and had a double-double by halftime. Logan Thorne chipped in another 10 to go with nine rebounds before coming out of the game as well.
Baxter’s bench is a little short with some players out in the early season and extra game action for those bench players he does have will come in handy down the road, he said.
“Right now we’re mixing and matching and luckily we have some players who can play all over the court,” Baxter said.
Umatilla senior guard Andres Saunguino did what he could to keep the game close, netting 16 points, but his efforts couldn’t overcome the Rockets offense.