The Rockets took an early lead en route to a 54-35 victory.
By BILL ALBRIGHT
SLIPPERY ROCK -- It wasn't pretty, but it was an important win for the Slippery Rock High basketball team Friday.
The Rockets downed Hickory 54-35 in the Mercer County Athletic Conference opener.
The Hornets (4-7, 0-1) continued their offensive woes.
"We have been struggling on offense through the start of the season, and tonight was no different," Mastrian said. "Although we did get behind early, we did cut our deficit to three.
"But we didn't capitalize on any opportunities from that point on to get it any closer," Mastrian said. "Then we started turning the ball over and that has been another problem we have had."
The Rockets took control of the game from the outset as they ran off 14 of the first 16 points and eventually held a comfortable 16-6 lead at the first turn.
"When those teams play those junk defenses against our guards, it gives Scott [Rice] and Luke [McCaffrey] the opportunity to go to the basket," Slippery Rock coach Chris Burtch said.
High scorers: Rice led the Rockets with a game-high 14 points while McCaffrey was one behind with 13. Brett Codispot completed the trio of Rockets in doubles with 10.
Twice during the first 24 minutes of the game, the Rockets threatened to put the game away. But the Hornets stayed within striking distance.
"We have gone down early throughout the season, and tonight was no different," Mastrian said.
If Slippery Rock (7-5, 1-0) didn't have control of the game with a nine-point lead at the end of the third period, the Rockets quickly took care of that during the next two minutes with eight unanswered points.
"We worked real hard to make sure [Nick] Mastrian and [Jeremy] Glass didn't get off on us and they only combined for 15 points," Burtch said.
Staying ahead: "They came back on us once, the second time we wore them down a little more and the third time, you could just see them flatten out and run out of gas," Burtch said. "This was a 19-point win that didn't seem like a 19-point win."
Mastrian said he thought "our defensive game plan worked really well, but we didn't rebound very well and gave them a lot of second and third chances."
On the heels of a tragic New Year's Day accident that claimed the lives of four Slippery Rock students, Burtch was quick to give his players a lot of credit for the manner in which they handled the adverse situation.
"Watching these guys Wednesday and then watching them tonight, I am overwhelmed by their character, especially for the way they played these last two games with their heavy hearts and heavy minds," Burtch said.
"Our hearts go out to everyone who is even closer to the situation than they are," Burtch said.