BROOKFIELD – After the Maplewood Rockets finished a 59-55 win over the Brookfield Warriors Tuesday, Rockets coach Nathan Kish was seen trotting out of the gymnasium with his son Andrew.
Considering that Kish may have aged about 10 years during a near fourth-quarter collapse by Maplewood, it’s amazing he was able to keep up with his 3-year-old.
“Oh my gosh. I told them, ‘You’re killing me,’ ” Kish said. “We could have won three different times and just put it away. We made some mistakes down the stretch. Hopefully, we learned from now until tournament time.”
The Rockets (17-4) played their motion offense with pinpoint precision in opening a 33-19 halftime lead. There wasn’t much of a decline in performance in the third quarter as Maplewood took a 46-34 lead into the final period.
The Warriors suddenly woke up from their slumber and played with an intensity that was missing most of the game. Brookfield forced several turnovers and took advantage of 4-of-11 shooting at the foul line by Maplewood in the final quarter to nearly steal a victory.
“I just said (at halftime) that the effort wasn’t there,” Warriors coach Bill Kovach said. “We needed to look inside. Actually, when we run offense, we’re pretty good. We came out and ran a little offense and matched up with them. The kids played with heart. It makes all the difference in the world.”
The Warriors (12-9) scored the first seven points of the fourth period to cut the differential to five points. Brookfield continued to chip away at the lead, trailing 57-53 after a 3-point shot by freshman Brian Hiner.
The Rockets then did the Warriors a favor when Ethan Obradovich and Nate Spitler both missed two free throws.
Hiner followed with two foul shots to cut the Maplewood lead to 57-55. Luke Evan, who made five of the Rockets’ nine 3-point shots in scoring 20 points, then split a pair at the line.
The Warriors had a chance to tie the score as Derrick Dickson dribbled across the 10-second line with less than 15 seconds remaining in the period. Dickson was called for pushing off to return possession to the Rockets, who sealed the win with one free throw by Kevin Jones.
“We knew that once we were up like that in the first half that they weren’t going to back down,” Evan said. “We had to come out and put four full quarters together.”
Evan made three 3-point shots in the second quarter in scoring 11 first-half points. He added six points to help slow down the Warriors’ momentum in the fourth quarter.
Obradovich had 12 points as the Rockets made 21-of-40 field goals, but they were just 7-of-15 at the foul line. Spitler and Jones both added 10 points.
“I told them that this is going to show us where we’re at,” Kish said. “We could play some very good teams in the district. You have to come and be ready to play.”
Seth Wallace led the Warriors in scoring with 12 points. Dickson had 11.