ROCKY GROVE — The Rockets weren’t as dominant as they were in the opener on Friday, but they used a fast start and a strong finish Saturday to capture the ninth annual Roy Sanner Memorial Tip-Off Tournament championship with a 56-47 win over home-standing Rocky Grove.
In running its record to 2-0, THS was challenged more, at times, in its match-up with the Orioles, which was a contrast to its total drubbing of Cranberry the night before.
Rocky Grove came back, making things interesting in the second half, after spotting the Brown and Gold the first game’s first 13 points. THS kept RG off the board until there was 3:27 left in the opening canto and scored 22 in the final eight minutes to remain unbeaten early on in the season.
Much like Friday, however, Titusville’s perimeter defense set the tone for the game. Passing lanes to the post were closed off, forcing RG into some errant shots from the outside. Titusville’s front-court of Guy Anthony and Willie Colon started their dominance on the boards, which also opened the transition game as the Brown and Gold got some easy buckets, building their early lead.
Anthony, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, got rolling on the offense in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his game-high 23 points as the Rockets pulled away after the hosts took a brief 28-26 lead at the 4:28 mark of the third.
Colon also finished in double figures (10), and, along with Anthony, continually made the hosts set up perimeter shots rather than try to work the ball underneath. That opened things up for the Titusville big men to grab the boards and set the stage for transition baskets.
“All of that comes from how we practice,” said Anthony, who also made 7-of-9 from the free throw line to add to his total. “Our goal is not to allow second shots. Willie (Colon) and I enjoy playing this defense.”
Elijah Perez finished with 11 and joined Anthony on the all-tournament team to help lead the offense. However, Rockets coach Craig Mehlenbacher said other player’s contributions were just as significant, even though their efforts may not show on the stat sheet.
“Ethan Roberts’ defense was outstanding tonight,” Mehlenbacher said of the 5-foot-8-inch senior guard. He held Rocky Grove’s top scorer, Gabe Francic, to 13 points, snared numerous loose balls and even hit a three-pointer when THS pulled away late.
“His play was just as important as what we got on offense,” Mehlenbacher added.
The Rockers were also more potent from long range as 15 of Titusville’s points were from beyond the three-point arc. RG had only a pair of treys on the night with Eli Dickson pacing with hosts with 16 points.
As THS sets out to defend its Region 6 title and its first state playoff game appearance in 25 years, things look to get tougher when its back in action tomorrow. THS hosts Meadville, a former rival from their days competing in the Tri-County Athletic Conference.
“They are the most athletic team so far on our schedule,” Mehlenbacher said. The jayvees start the action at the Launch Pad at 6 p.m., with the varsity game to follow.