FLUSH — The Riley County boys’ basketball team was able to pull the upset on the road Friday night with a 43-39 win over rival Rock Creek Friday night in a tight, physical and intense contest.
Senior Cameron Uphoff led Riley County and the game with 14 points, while three other Falcons scored at least eight points apiece. Eight players scored at least one bucket for the Mustangs, with 6-foot-5 junior Jacob Miller leading the bunch with 10 points.
“We needed that one,” Riley County head coach Kelly Hammel said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. Our guys really kept up their composure throughout the game and we stepped up our intensity and focus late in the basketball game.
“It was something we needed to work on and they showed some resiliency tonight.”
After the Falcons (9-6, 5-2) led much of the second half, Rock Creek led by four points with 4:36 to go and looked to be in the driver’s seat.
However, a long 3-pointer from the right of the key by senior Joel Garver cut down the Mustang’s lead, and back-to-back tip ins by Uphoff put Riley County in front 40-37 with 2:50 to go.
Miller answered on the other end with an offensive rebound and a put-back to tighten the game 40-39, and Rock Creek (12-3, 5-2) answered again after the make on defense with a halfcourt steal. The Mustangs stepped out of bounds, though, but pressured the Falcons into a timeout with 2:05 remaining in regulation.
With the game back in motion Rock Creek was called for a foul and Riley County senior Kyle Cook was sent to the stripe, where he was 2-for-2.
With a three-point lead and 1:55 and counting on the clock, the Mustangs got the benefit of a foul call and had their chance at the free throw line, but failed to convert on the front end of a 1-and-1. Riley County grabbed the rebound and Rock Creek was forced to foul.
The Falcons also missed on the front end of the 1-and-1, and the Mustangs called a timeout with 34.9 seconds left on the clock, still down by three points.
Riley County was again in command of the glass though, as the Falcons pulled down another rebound following the timeout that forced the Mustangs to send another shooter to the stripe, this time in the double bonus.
Cook didn’t hit 2-of-2 this time, but 1-of-2 was good enough. The make put Riley County ahead by four points with under 10 seconds left, and the Falcons hung on.
“Both teams played really hard,” Mustangs head coach Jim Johnston said. “We couldn’t score on them.. we couldn’t execute at all. We couldn’t buy a shot on the inside and couldn’t hit a shot on the outside. Riley County made some plays towards the end, we didn’t — kind of the bottom line.”
Johnston said the Falcon defense caused problems for his team in crunch time.
“Each team had a lead and loose balls,” Johnston said. “Calls could have went either way. But Riley made their free throws down the stretch and we had a couple gimme’s we couldn’t stick in. We couldn’t get a good look at the bucket.
“Riley played very good defense at the end and it was an intense game. We want to play games like that — we need to get better — but we sure would rather come out on the winning end than the losing end.”
Hammel said the win was important for the Falcons in the Mid-East League standings and that even more so, it provides momentum.
“It keeps us in the league race,” he said. “We’re in second place behind Silver Lake and it’s important for sub-state seeding, but ultimately, it gives us some confidence.”
RILEY COUNTY 42,
ROCK CREEK 39
Riley County 3 16 14 10 — 43
Rock Creek 10 8 12 9 — 39
RILEY COUNTY (43) — Uphoff 14, Cook 9, Shoemaker 8, Wood 8, Garver 4.
ROCK CREEK (39) — Miller 10, Johnston 7, Srna 6, Adams 6, Kuecker 4, Roberts 3, Parker 2, Dobbins 1.
3-pointers — Riley County 2 (Garver and Wood). Rock Creek 1 (Johnston).