UNION STAR, Mo. — The West Nodaway Rockets finished a run of three games in three days with a 57-50 loss to the Stewartsville Cardinals in the consolation game of the Platte Valley Invitational. The Rockets finished the tournament 1-2, with their lone win coming against Osborn on Wednesday.
The Rockets struggled getting baskets out of the gate against the Cardinals’ press. Dylan Carden drew a foul four seconds into the game and knocked down both free throws. From there, West Nodaway struggled to get any sort of offense going.
Stewartsville took advantage of the Rockets’ inability to score and jumped out to a 12-2 lead. West Nodaway finally make their first basket with 2:57 left in the first on layup from Carden. Sophomore Tyler Blay then scored his first basket of the game, followed by a Stewartsville basket. The offensive emergence for the Rockets with a three from Eli Sanders to cut the lead to five.
The Rockets trailed 21-11 after the first quarter, but quickly cut the lead back to five with a basket from Sanders and three free throws by Blay. The Cardinals had no answers for the West Nodaway in the second quarter as they outscored Stewartsville 9-3 to start.
“We ran our transition which helped us get down the floor and get easy layups,” Blay said. “Coach got after us and lit a spark under our butts to get going.”
Down 24-20, a 5-0 run gave the Rockets their first lead since the opening minute of the game. Blay’s 3-pointer gave West Nodaway the lead, but it last just a few minutes as the Cardinals closed out the first half with three free throws.
The start of the second half looked a lot like the first quarter of the game. After a quick two points from Stewartsville, the Rockets went on to turn the ball over three times in their first three possessions.
“We really have to focus on not turning the ball over and work on making smart passes,” Sanders said.
The Cardinals had their chance to put the game away early in the third quarter and it appeared they might with a 10-2 run. Stewartsville forward Mitchell Lundy was the biggest factor in that run, scoring all 10 points for the Cardinals. Lundy had 17 second half points after scoring just two in the first half.
West Nodaway didn’t let the run beat them and like the first half, slowly chipped away at the Stewartsville lead. The run started with a layup from Brody Beason, free throws from Blay, Carden and Dawson Fast. The Cardinals mixed in a basket, but back-to-back baskets from Blay and Beason had West Nodaway within five of Stewartsville.
The Cardinals kept the lead in the five to six-point range for most of the fourth quarter, but a technical foul on Stewartsville gave the Rockets new life. Blay made both free throws and then Beason ended the possession with a layup — making it 48-46 Stewartsville.
“We preach from day one that the game is never over until there are zeros on the clock,” Rockets coach Kolton Jones said. “I want a fight, anybody is beatable on any given night and I want us to keep fighting and that’s what they did.”
The Rockets went on to tie the game with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter and that is when the Cardinals tried taking advantage of there being no shot clock in high school basketball. Stewartsville worked the clock down to 21.3 seconds before taking a timeout. After the timeout, the Cardinals turned the ball over and then Sanders scored with just six seconds left. But the Cardinals answered with a layup of their own, leaving one last heave from Preston Bateman that came up short — sending the game to overtime.
The overtime period was much less dramatic than the last minute of the fourth quarter. The two teams combined for more turnovers than points. The Cardinals took 57 seconds off the clock with one possession that netted zero points. Stewartsville’s Hunter Karl scored the first points of overtime with 1:48 left and then West Nodaway turned the ball over on their next three possessions.
The Rockets still had a chance down 54-50, but their final turnover of the game all but iced the game for Stewartsville. A free throw from the Cardinals made it 55-50, but Beason’s missed 3-pointer would be the last gasp. West Nodaway finished the game with 26 turnovers.
“We got to learn to not turn the ball over and learn to play under pressure,” Blay said.
The sophomore guard was a real bright spot for the Rockets. Blay averaged 22 points per game in the PVI Tournament.
“He’s very smooth, he can see the floor very well and that opens it up for other people,” Jones said. “Tyler is a hard worker, he’s a work horse for us and if can start hitting some of those inside-out shots, it’s really going to open it up for other people.”