Too big, too athletic, and just too good, the Anna Rockets made the most of their advantage with a dominating decision over Jackson Center to stay unbeaten, and frankly…unchallenged in the Shelby County League.
Anna, OH – Scott Elchert took a deep breath and made a quiet sound as he exhaled, almost a slight whistle between his teeth.
To the question of when the last time he’d been held to two points in the first quarter of a game – or outscored 30-12 in the first half – the veteran coach of the Jackson Center Tigers smiled with a respectful nod.
“I don’t know, really,” he said quietly. “Actually, I was OK with a two point quarter because we were down eight. But it’s been a while, I guess.”
Then, taking the opportunity to organize his thoughts, in true Shelby County League character he added, “But that’s a solid basketball team (Anna). And that team is something that’s going to be reckoned with all year, and come March, too. It was a tough challenge for us tonight, with our youth and inexperience, but you can only do one thing after a game like tonight…and that’s get better.”
It was a thumpin’, make no mistake. Anna (4-0) remained unbeaten, and unchallenged in Shelby County League play (2-0), with a complete and dominating 66-39 performance against Elchert’s Tigers (1-3). And for the second time in as many nights they looked, at times, like the Golden State Warriors in doing it.
Yes, Jackson Center is young, inexperienced…and small, starting 5’7″ Christopher Elchert (son of the coach) at one guard.
And yes, they’re missing the firepower of recent vintage Tiger teams – a Drew Sosby and a Brady Wildermuth.
But make no mistake. This Anna team is that good through four games – offensively, defensively, playing with patience, and sharing the basketball. Three players finished in double figures for coach Nate Barhorst Friday (led by Wyatt Bensman’s 22 points); and overall, seven different players scored.
They scored from all points on the court. They shot the mid-range jumper. They shot the three. They scored on one back cut to the rim after another. And Bensman, in the midst of an 12-point third quarter, matching Jackson’s output for the period all by himself, took it right down the gut to score at the rim. About the only thing he did wrong all night was kick the ball out of bounds when he was wide open in the open court for an uncontested dunk in the third quarter. And still, he got an appreciative applause.
Choosing to play with patience at the outset, Jackson Center worked the ball for the shots they wanted, but the problem was…they didn’t hit those shots. But their patience held Anna at bay. The Rockets held just a 10-2 advantage at the start of the second quarter.
But from there on the Rockets ‘blasted off’, scoring in transition, from their half-court offense, and bigger at the rim physically, they had their way on the offensive boards. They outscored Jackson Center 20-10 in the second quarter and held a commanding 30-12 lead at the break.
Like an Air Force Blue Angels routine, they came out leaving contrails at the start of the third quarter, going on an 8-2 run before Elchert called a timeout to slow the pace of the game. But to no avail. It was 51-24 by the end of the stanza; and the final eight minutes were little more than a learning experience for Elchert’s young team.
“It was tough for us to score tonight, and I told our kids at the end of the third quarter…we’re not worried about the scoreboard,” said Elchert. “All we can do now is work to get better with each possession. So tonight gives us something to talk about and to work on. We can’t do anything but get better.”
Anna won it with 51% shooting from the floor, and those three players in double figures – Bensman (22), Griffin Doseck (14 points), and Bart Bixler (12 points). In support, Drew Brodman threw in 8, Mason Platfoot had 5, Riley Huelskamp had 3, and Joel Cathcart had 2.
Jackson Center lost it with 32% shooting from the floor, and with a courageous and workman-like offensive night from senior Bryce Sosby, who finished with 13 points, but likely needed some Aleve afterwards. He worked for ’em. Calvin Winner and Trent Platfoot each had 6 points, Aiden Reichert and Braden Heitkamp each had 5, and Jerron Reese had 4.
“Without a doubt it was our most complete game so far,” said Rockets coach Nate Barhorst. “I was very pleased with our effort and you’ve always got concerns going into a game over whether we’re going to bring the intensity and play with good fundamentals…and our kids, for the most part, did both tonight. I thought our 1-3-1 half-court trap helped us get the tempo going in our favor, and I was pleased with our defensive effort to stop Sosby because he’s so good at getting to the rim and scoring.
“Jackson Center is always going to be well-coached, they’re going to be disciplined, and they’re going to play hard; and tonight was no exception. They were the same Jackson team we normally see, but they’re just younger and less experienced and our kids did a good job of taking advantage of matchups and difference in size. Tonight was the first total game we’ve put together so far this season.”
When apprised of Elchert’s comments about his team being one to be reckoned with all year long, including the month of March, Barhorst savored the moment.
“I’ll tell you,” he offered. “I have a ton of respect for that man (Elchert). I told the kids what he said to me after the game, and I told them when he says that YOU KNOW he means it.”
There were scouts there from future opponents, and they all saw what Wyatt Bensman referred to a week ago – a team that to a man wants to play, and wants to win. And it doesn’t matter how they win…as long as they DO win.
And Friday they showed again, though early, that they have the athletes, the discipline, and desire to beat you on either end of the court. Or in the case of how they beat Jackson Center…both.
The Rockets…showed a lot of red glare!