By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
It took 22 years, but Rockford East has finally picked up another win at Rockford Boylan Catholic High School.
The E-Rabs played a tight first half with the Titans, opened their lead up to 7 after three, and withstood a final Boylan push to pull out a 61-60 win over the Titans to move into the top four in the NIC-10.
“Last time we didn’t come out ready to go,” East Head Coach Roy Sackmaster said. “These games test us, and we need to be tested to be ready for what we want to do in the postseason.”
Steve McNease had his second strong performance of the weekend, scoring half of the E-Rabs’ 24 first-half points and finished with 15 points overall. The win put East at 7-4 in the conference, a half game behind Boylan, who is 8-4.
It was the second straight win for East over a team in the top half of the conference in as many nights. The previous night, East withstood an early 10-point deficit, and 20 points from Luke Norman, to come back for a 43-40 victory over Freeport.
“We’re almost better losing, coming from behind and stealing it at the end sometimes,” Sackmaster said.
It was a rough go early, as Norman hit three first-quarter 3-point shots and the Pretzels grabbed an 18-8 lead. With
Freeport’s tough zone defense and patient offense, the rest of the game turned into a grind for the E-Rabs.
“They are a very patient, well-coached team,” Sackmaster said. “They are not going to do something to let you back in, you have to force their hand.”
The E-Rabs were able to grab the lead in the fourth quarter and pushed their lead to 9 points. But the Pretzels battled back, thanks to 7 fourth-quarter points from Norman late, and the Pretzels had a shot to tie, but missed.
While Devion Smith led the way for East with 11 points, McNease controlled the game with 15 rebounds to go with his 7 points.
“Steve can control the game on the defensive glass, especially down the stretch when we are trying to close it out,” Sackmaster said. “He can go in and erase everything off the backboard.”
Freeport did bounce back the following night with a 52-40 win over Rockford Jefferson to get back to 6-5 in the conference. In the victory, Norman scored his 1,000th point for the Pretzels.
Around the NIC-10:
• Machesney Park Harlem got 46 points in two games from Justin Van Wambeke as the Huskies knocked off both Belvidere North and Belvidere in overtime to push their conference record to 4-8.
• Belvidere North picked up their second conference win of the season, getting 22 points from Jake Boxleitner in a 66-61 win over Rockford Guilford. The win puts North at 2-9 in the conference, while Guilford, who also lost to Boylan, sits at 2-10.
From the Feb. 8-14, 2012, issue