“ They know we haven’t had a winning season in a while,” Loewe said.
The chances for this contemporary group to join their storied forefathers gathered some steam Friday night.
The Tigers’ 55-46 victory over Caldwell on the evening secures the first winning season for the Rockdale basketball program since 1997, also, the last time a team has made a playoff appearance.
The 16 wins also equals the most victories during that 15- year span.
“It’s exciting for the kids to know that they have done something to bring Rockdale basketball back,” Loewe said. “Now, we can work towards the playoffs.”
The w in streak c ame to a close Tuesday night however, after dropping a 69-65 thriller to league-leader Navasota on the road (see below).
The Tigers stand 16-8 on the season and 3-1 in District 23- 3A.
Despite the important victory over 8-8 Caldwell, Rockdale rebounded poorly and there were defensive lapses that allowed the Hornets to hang around.
“ This is the worst we have played in a month,” Loewe said of Friday night’s victory. “For one thing, Caldwell played hard. We did a poor job blocking out and rebounding and we still need some work on our half-court trap and defensively we gave up some things we don’t normally do.
“But, still we were up by 14 at one point, we were still playing hard, I saw us diving for balls.”
Rockdale certainly did not aid the inspired Hornets, turning the ball over just five times and only once in the second half.
Another factor was an injury to freshman point guard and leading scorer Wendell Mitchell, who jammed his right ring finger and had it up.
“He’s really hurting,” Loewe said.
Mitchell—the Tigers’ leading scorer with a 16-point average— was held to 11 points on three-for 12 shooting and 0-for-4 from three point range before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Harvesting most of his points by taking the baseline route to the hole, William Dean turned in a season-high 16 points to lead Rockdale.
Cody Skubal was limited to six points (six below his average), but still collected 11 rebounds, his 14th double-digit effort in the category on the season.
The 6-foot-3 senior also dished off four assists and blocked two shots.
Guard Bryston Burns sparked Caldwell with 12 points, while 6- foot-5 Zach Aldridge supplied 10 points and controlled the boards with 15 rebounds.
Leading 12-10 after the first quarter, the Tigers constructed some separation in the second, going on a 15-4 run behind Dean’s three baskets to end the quarter with a 29-17 lead at the break.
The Hor nets could not be smoked out however and after a Zach Garza layup sandwiched in between two James David buckets provided Rockdale with its largest lead of the evening, 37-23 Caldwell pulled to within eight on three separate occasions and trailed just 42-34 after three.
The Hornets began to chop away at the lead at the outset of the final period and after Burns nailed a three-pointer from the left corner and then a coastto coast lay up, Caldwell had trimmed the Tigers lead to 42- 39 with 7 minutes, 29 seconds remaining to be played.
After a timeout, the Tigers regrouped and held the Hornets without a field goal for the next 6:40 while they re-constructed their double digit lead, 51-40, on baskets by Garza and David and free throws from Dean and Mitchell.
All streaks came to a halt Tuesday night with a last-second 69- 65 loss to the defending district champion Rattlers on the road, their first setback since Dec. 16.
Trailing 65-54 with 20 seconds remaining, Skubal stole the ball and gets fouled on a missed layup and sinks one-of-two to tie the game at 65.
On the ensuing tr ip dow n court, Solomon McGinty corralled a missed Rattler shot and sticks it back with two seconds left for the victory.
The Rattlers (15-9, 4-0) scored again after a Rockdale timeout and threw a full court pass out of bounds.
The Tigers missed 5-of-6 free throws in the last two minutes of the game.
Skubal busted out a game-high 22 points and took 12 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season.
He also posted three assists and two steals.
Mitchell returned to form with 16 points.
McGinty led Navasota with 26 points.
The Tigers close out the first round of district play hosting Smithville Friday.
TIGERS SEASON STATS
|Rebounds:||Skubal 9.3,||David 5.4|
|FG%: Ford 59,||David 53|
|FT%: Mitchell||81, Garza||75|
LONG TIME COMING
Here’s a look at Rockdale’s yearby year record since its last winning season in 1997: