FAIRFAX, Mo. — A few months after winning a state cross-country championship at West Nodaway, Tyler Blay continued to chisel his place in the history of Rocket athletics.
On Monday, the senior finished a 3-point play late in the second quarter on a pass from Hunter Dawson to eclipse Trevor Meyer’s all-time Rocket scoring record. The 2015 graduate scored 1,443 points in his Rocket career.
With 16 points on Monday, Blay has now scored 1,453 points in his career. With West Nodaway beginning a coop agreement with Nodaway-Holt next season, Blay’s West Nodaway record is unlikely to be matched in a Rocket uniform.
“I am really proud of the kid,” Phipps said. “He has put the time in, he has put the work in and he deserves everything that he has ever gotten.”
Despite the special night for Blay, the Rockets couldn’t match the firepower of the Wolves on Monday night in the first round of the 89th Fairfax Invitational. East Atchison earned a 67-57 victory.
The Rockets (6-4) entered the tournament as the second seed while the Wolves were the seventh seed, but East Atchison had just beaten West Nodaway 57-50 just a week ago in Burlington Junction.
“I was pretty frustrated last Monday, but they came back and beat us this Monday so I have to tip my cap to E.A.,” Phipps said. “We have to move on and find a way to get better for our next opponent.”
East Atchison (4-8) jumped out to an 17-5 lead thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by junior Titus Eaton and five points from sophomore point guard Jarrett Spinnato.
“They came out hot,” Phipps said. “Everything they shot was falling in. Defensively, we just have to continue to improve and get better.”
Blay got on the board to end the Wolves’ run with a 3-pointer. Dawson hit two foul shots and Dawson Fast hit one to continue to slice the lead.
Blay, who’s passing has shined this season, found Grant Atkins and Fast for layups and then ended the first quarter with a break-away layup of his own to bring West Nodaway within 18-17.
The Wolves never relinquished the lead though and began the second quarter with a 9-2 run to take an 8-point advantage. The Rockets fought back and trimmed the lead to 34-31 on Blay’s record-setting 3-point play, but East Atchison closed the half on a Braden Graves runner at the buzzer to go back up by five.
Another Blay bucket pulled the Rockets to within one again early in the third quarter, but despite being within one point on three occasions in the period, they were never able to pull ahead.
The Wolves took a 50-46 lead into the fourth quarter. That margin exploded in the early portions of the fourth quarter behind East Atchison junior Kaylin Merriweather’s sheer physical dominance. The junior excelled defensively and spent most of the night on Blay, but also was a force rebounding the ball, and his style set the tone for a 15-3 run to open the fourth quarter and put the game away for East Atchison.
“I got a lot of respect for Merriweather because he just goes and goes,” Phipps said. “He doesn’t stop. To keep a guy like that off the boards, you have to go, go, go all the time too. We need to have five guys on the glass. I think we tried to do that. They were just a little more physical than us, but we just have to find a way to answer and get rebounds when we need them.”
Spinnato led all scorers with 24 points while Merriweather had 14 and Graves had 12.
The Rockets were led by Dawson and Blay with 17 and 16 points respectively. Atkins added 13 and Fast had nine while Bracxten Rohlmeier rounded out the scoring with two.
The Rockets will draw the third-seeded South Holt Knights in the consolation semifinals at 6 p.m. on Wednesday after South Holt lost to Falls City 56-34 on Monday.