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Rockets stay unbeaten with win at Christie Clinic Shootout

Jan. 7—ST. JOSEPH — The Unity boys' basketball team went into Saturday's Christie Clinic Shootout hosted by St. Joseph-Ogden as the last undefeated team in the area and left having proven why for the 15th time this season, beating Quincy Notre Dame 58-35.

"Intensity," Unity coach Matt Franks said of what his team brings every night. "We've got really competitive guys, and it's all about getting them in the most competitive spirit they can be in. Good things happen when that's the case for our guys."

The Rockets grew a 16-8 lead after the first quarter to 37-18 by halftime and all the way up to 55-25 after the third quarter. It was steady and efficient, and that's what you'll get when you play the style of basketball Unity does.

But something wasn't clicking for the starters through the first three and a half minutes of the game — as the score was tied at 2 — so Franks subbed in five new players. After taking a quick breather, Franks platoon-swapped his starting five back in, and they cruised from there.

While the starters were on the bench, the Rockets (15-0) didn't miss a beat on the court, and that shows up in the box score from game to game. One night, Henry Thomas could lead the team in scoring. The next, it could be Eric Miebach. Another, and it could be Jay Saunders. On Saturday, it was Andrew Thomas and Dane Eisenmenger putting up 13 points apiece and Dalton O'Neill chipping in 10. That consistently balanced scoring effort is what makes it so difficult for opposing teams to game-plan for the Rockets.

"It speaks to this team's trust in each other," Franks said. "The ball moves really well. They make the one more pass, and they know their teammate is going to make a play."

With Tuscola's 53-49 loss to Shelbyville on Friday night, Unity is the last area unbeaten standing, and they'll face off Tuesday in Tolono.

The pressure that typically comes with being undefeated hasn't seemed to be there for the Rockets this season. If anything, they're getting better with each win. Franks said it's all about sustaining confidence, and his players have exuded that confidence as they've kept a zero in the loss column.

"We always come in to fight," Andrew Thomas said. "We know it's game by game. We don't overlook any opponent. Everyone's ready. Sometimes, when it's like a 9 a.m. game, you'd think we'd be sluggish, but as soon as we get in, everyone's energized."

Spartans come up short

Right after Unity earned its win Saturday, it was host St. Joseph-Ogden's turn to battle it out with Pinckneyville. The Spartans' game didn't go as smooth, however, as they fell 72-57.

"They just played harder than us," SJ-O senior Tanner Jacob said of the Panthers.

Jacob did his best to keep the Spartans (13-3) in it, drilling four three-pointers in the fourth quarter on his way to a team-high 20 points, but the defense couldn't find a way to stop AJ Keith, who finished with 33 points. It's not often the Spartans will come out on the losing end when Jacob scores 20 and Tanner Siems and Logan Smith add 11 and 10, respectively, but the hole was just too big to climb out of.

"We were down by 15, so I was just chucking them up," Jacob said. "Threes are more than twos, so if I was open, I was going to put it up and hopefully cut it down."

Sages roll

Kevin Roy moved into sole possession of second place for wins at Monticello as the Sages coach watched his team defeat New Berlin 57-26 on Saturday afternoon in the shootout's third game.

Roy now has 337 wins in charge of Monticello, surpassing Tom Young on Saturday. Bob Trimble holds the school record with 383 victories.

Trey Welter scored a game-high 19 points and made 3 of 5 three-pointers while adding four assists for Monticello (8-8) in its second straight win.

Raiden Colbert joined Welter in double figures with 10 points, while Gatsby Grant added nine points and Eli Craft finished with seven points. Monticello led 13-4 at the end of the first quarter and increased its lead to 33-14 by halftime.

Streator wins opener

Streator received 23 points from Christian Benning and 10 points from Logan Aukland, helping the Bulldogs defeat Normal West 60-53 in Saturday's first game.

Nate Moore led Normal West with 23 points.

U-High cruises

Miles Kiriin scored a game-high 18 points, Cam Johnson added 14 points and Normal U-High defeated Carterville 68-42 in Saturday's second game.

Brandon Skelcher paced Carterville with 15 points, all on five three-pointers.

Boilermakers hold on. Bradley-Bourbonnais rallied from a halftime deficit, relying on 22 points from Nick Allen to beat Belleville West 62-61 in Saturday's fourth game.

Anthony Kemp and Branden Harris both had 13 points for the Boilermakers, who trailed 33-26 at halftime.

U-High cruises

Mt. Zion collected a 64-49 win against Washington on Saturday night in the final game.

The Braves had three players in double figures led by a game-high 22 points from JC Anderson, while Grant McAtee supplied 13 points and Lyncoln Koester added 12 points. Andre Lewis and CJ Duncan had 12 points apiece to lead the Panthers.