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The previous time Rich East played a game — on Dec. 29 — it barely reached 40 points in a 44-41 loss to Hales in the McDipper Tournament.
Rich East coach George Leonard told his team afterward that it had lost its identity, which was playing an up-tempo, run-first style.
The Rockets apparently heard their coach’s message, racing out to a 16-2 lead against Rich South and pretty much coasting to a 78-61 win Tuesday night over their District 227 rivals in Richton Park.
“We had to get rededicated to who we are,” Leonard said. “And that’s to run. That’s what we did for the most part tonight.”
The Rockets (7-4, 2-1) converted 10-of-12 field goals in the opening quarter, including their first seven tries.
The three-headed monster of Ron Lawton (23 points), Nick Horne (14) and Brandon Cole (16) combined for 27 of the Rockets’ 28 first-quarter points.
Horne buried two three-pointers while Cole added one. Lawton provided two jams as the Rockets led 28-10 after one period.
“It’s just about everybody doing what coach says,” Lawton said of the Rockets’ fast start. “Everybody buying in. Work hard in practice and transition it to the game.”
Rich East’s lead swelled to 38-16 in the second quarter. Cole nailed two threes to help keep the good times going over the Stars.
Rich South (7-7, 2-1) was able to cut the margin to 43-26 by halftime, then used a 9-0 run to start the third quarter to close to within 43-35. Demitri Strickland (22 points) scored five points during that run, with Denzel Kimbrough (10) adding four, including a three.
Leonard called a timeout to rally his troops.
“I just told them to focus on things we can control, mainly rebounding,” he said.
The Rockets scored six of their next eight points in transition and built their lead up to 57-39 late in the third. Rich South never got within single digits again.
Jalen Zachery recorded 15 points for the Stars.
Rich East finished 27-of-44 from the field after going 16-of-22 the first half.
“It doesn’t matter what you do when you don’t give effort,” Rich South coach Scot Ritter said. “We have to understand we have to be a more consistent, mentally focused team. It just comes down to competing.”