Created:Saturday, December 21, 2013 11:17 p.m.CDT
Updated:Saturday, December 21, 2013 11:24 p.m.CDT
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Richmond-Burton responds in E.C. Nichols opener

Richmond-Burton's Sam Kaufman drives past Sycamore's Daniel Evans during the first quarter of their E.C. Nichols Tournament game Saturday at Marengo. (Brett Moist for Shaw Media)

MARENGO – The first time Brandon Creason pleaded for more effort from his Richmond-Burton boys basketball team, his tone wasn’t exactly calm and collected.

The Rockets trailed by double figures, were struggling with turnovers and were struggling to score. His message, delivered early in the second quarter, was simple: If the Rockets didn’t turn things around, they were going to be blown out.

When R-B heeded that warning, got things rolling and starting applying pressure defensively, Creason’s second message, delivered with his team leading by a point entering the final eight minutes, was much different.

Just win the quarter. Again, the Rockets answered the call.

R-B put together a solid fourth quarter and finished off Sycamore from the free throw line in a 54-48 victory Saturday on the opening day of the 64th annual E.C. Nichols Tournament.

“We didn’t play very well the first three quarters,” R-B senior guard Brian Wells said. “We knew we had a one-point lead and that the better team has the better quarter, and we were able to get the [win].”

The Rockets (5-3) overcame a shaky start when they fell behind, 18-6. That prompted Creason to call timeout and bite into his team verbally. At the time, R-B had all of two field goals and 10 tunovers and wasn’t able to rebound.

By the end of the second quarter, R-B trailed by only five before using a full-court press that helped spark a 16-4 run that gave the Rockets a 38-35 lead. Wells led the surge, scoring a team-high 13 points, and freshman center Joe St. Pierre – playing for the first time since suffering a strained calf muscle more than a week ago – chipped in with 12.

Once the Rockets had the lead, they never looked back. It started with defense.

“I thought they did a good job of keeping the pressure up,” Creason said. “Eventually, it started to show and it got to Sycamore a little bit. As a coach, you have to remind yourself that we have some young guys on this squad and they’re going to have some up and down moments.”

R-B finished strong, outscoring Sycamore, 16-11, in the fourth quarter. The Rockets still didn’t click entirely on offense but led by as many as seven before closing the game by hitting just enough free throws.

It gives Creason some hope that his young Rockets just may be OK.

“I think we’re going to be pretty good, and I say ‘going to be’ because I don’t think we’re where we need to be yet,” Creason said. “It’s not a sprint, and that’s a good thing because if it was, we’d be in trouble.

“I think we have a lot of potential here, and it’s just a matter of tweaking some things.”

Wauconda 48, Woodstock North 32: The Thunder played without two starters – Leonel Ortiz and Nikolaus Herscha – both of whom missed the game because of food poisoning. A third starter, Drake Creighton left the game early after aggravating a knee injury. Woodstock North couldn’t scrape together enough scoring outside of Josh Jandron, who led the Thunder with 11 points. Doug DeVore and Kyle Solarz each scored six points in the loss.

“Defensively, I’ll take it – I thought we did well,” North coach Steve Ryan said. “We did give up some easy buckets, but offensively, we struggle and we need to have kids step up and take the place of the kids who are not here.”

Marengo 46, Westminster Christian 32: The Indians erased an early deficit and then held Westminster Christian to three points in the second and third quarter combined. Marengo got 16 points from Adam Rogutich to go along with eight from Andrew Volkening.

Woodstock 59, Harvard 55: At Marengo, Mason Sutter scored a game-high 18 points for the Blue Streaks (3-6), and teammate Mitch Kohley added 10 in the win. Harvard (1-4) had three players in double figures. Fernando Carrera and Justin Nolen scored 15 points apiece, and Peyton Schneider added 11.

Marengo 63, Woodstock North 44: At Marengo, Zach Knobloch scored a team-high 19 points for the Indians (5-4). Adam Rogutich added 11.

North’s Josh Jandron led all scorers with 20 points. Drake Creighton added eight for the Thunder (2-8).