FLUSH — Head coach Jim Johnston’s Rock Creek boys’ basketball team used staunch defense to take care of an undermanned St. Marys squad, dispatching the Bears 57-20 in their opening-round sub-state matchup Monday night.
“We’ve been really working on defense since the end of January,” Johnston said. “We weren’t getting the intensity we need. Our seniors kind of talked to everyone and said ‘Hey, we need to step it up.’ Ryan (Schneider) knows what it’s like to get to Hutch and he wants to get back there.”
The Mustangs (17-3) got 19 points and seven rebounds — both game highs — from sophomore forward Carson Becker. Senior guard Ryan Schneider racked up 16 points before resting for much of the second half. Rock Creek — ranked No. 8 in Class 3A — was dominant on the glass, outrebounding St. Marys 40-25. They totaled 23 offensive rebounds, claiming 60 percent of their own missed shots.
The rebounding and a high-pressure man-to-man defense that caused 24 St. Marys turnovers allowed the Mustangs to shrug off a slow start offensively.
Rock Creek — which finished 19-of-55 shooting — made just one field goal in the first 7 1/2 minutes, but St. Marys (1-19) fared no better, unable to even muster a field-goal attempt until halfway through the first quarter. The Bears shot just 8 of 34 on the night.
“We missed some gimmies early in the game, shots we usually make,” Johnston said. “I thought we were a little nervous, or maybe just out of routine with not having games before us, but once we got going, we started making things happen.”
The Bears finally got off the schneid on a jumper from Jared Schoemann that cut the Mustang lead to 3-2 with 2:20 left in the first quarter. It might have woken up the Mustangs, who responded with four consecutive points from Becker before Schneider reeled off eight points and two 3-pointers in the final 38 seconds of the quarter to turn a five-point lead into a 15-4 advantage after one.
That last 3-pointer from Schneider started a 14-0 run capped by three straight Mustang steals, each leading to a score to balloon the lead to 26-4 with 4:39 before taking a 34-11 halftime lead and the rout was on.
“I thought our pressure really paid off,” Johnston said. “We were getting them to make mistakes, stealing a few balls and getting some baskets in transition. That really helped us get going.”
With Schneider relaxing on the sideline for much of the second half, the Mustangs continued to pound it inside to Becker and fellow sophomore post Jared Garcia. The two scored 16 of the Mustangs’ 20 third quarter points. Becker scored the final seven points of the quarter — including a 3-pointer — and a three-point play by reserve Trystan Buss gave them their big lead of the ballgame at 57-16 early in the final period.
It was the Mustangs’ third defeat of St. Marys this season.
The Mustangs will travel to Silver Lake on Thursday for a semifinal matchup with No. 4 seed Rossville (7-13) at 7:30 p.m., immediately following the Silver Lake/Riley County game at 6 p.m.