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Bloom's Dejahown Freeman (2) puts a shot up between Rich East's Don Henderson (25) and Ronald Lawton during their basketball game in Chicago Heights Friday, December 14, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

During the first half of Friday’s game against Rich East, Bloom looked a lot like last year’s team that finished third in Class 4A.

In the second half, not so much.

The Blazing Trojans nearly squandered a 19-point lead but held on for a 46-37 victory over Rich East in a Southland tilt in Chicago Heights.

The Rockets (3-2, 1-1) trimmed the sizable deficit to three, 37-34, with 4:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Bloom (6-2, 2-1), however, persevered, getting clutch free throws from Nhyree Mitchell and Dejahown Freeman to close out the win.

“We knew it was a big game,” Freeman said. “I’m glad we got the job done.”

The Blazing Trojans started the game with a 10-0 run, with Freeman leading the charge. The senior guard scored eight of those points, six coming on two three-pointers.

Bloom led 17-7 after one quarter, then started the second period with another run, this time 8-0, to open a 25-7 margin.

Where Freeman and Johnny Griffin (seven points) carried the load in the opening quarter, the bench responded in the second quarter.

Josiah Dailey (four points), Jataryan Dejareaux, Jared Johnson and Monty Fason combined for 10 of Bloom’s 13 points in the period. Nine players scored for Bloom.

“Guys stepped up off the bench,” Freeman said. “They made big contributions.”

The play from the reserves allowed Bloom to own a 30-13 lead at the half.

Rich East coach George Leonard must have given his team quite a pep talk at intermission.

It was an entirely different Rockets team in the second half. Ron Lawson, the team’s leading scorer who spent much of the first half glued to the bench, hit a trey to start the third quarter that ignited a 7-0 run.

The Rockets cut the deficit to 33-23 after three.

Washawn Watson (13 points) took over in the fourth, scoring Rich East’s first nine points to trim the gap to 37-32. A pair of free throws by Don Henderson cut the deficit to 37-34. The Rockets, however, ran out of gas.

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