Rocket basketball teams split pair at McMichael

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On Friday night, the Person High School women’s basketball team overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to beat McMichael 51-48.

The Lady Rockets (9-4, 3-2) jumped out to a 13-11 lead after the first quarter. Nydriya Marner registered eight of her team-high 17 points in the first eight minutes, while Kayleigh Clarke scored all five of her points.

McMichael (8-4, 2-3) swung the game in their favor, however, outscoring Person 20-14 in quarters two and three to take a 31-27 lead into the fourth quarter. Phoenix center Cassidy Tanton led the charge with 11 points in the second and third quarters, while Marner was the only Rocket to score in both quarters. She was the only player who scored for Person in the second period. Marner finished the game with 17 points to lead Person.

“We weren’t defending well, and we weren’t sprinting back in transition,” said Lady Rockets head coach Jay Carmichael, in reference to his team’s uncharacteristic play in the middle two quarters. “We were making mistakes that we shouldn’t make. We weren’t trapping well. They beat our trap.”

In the fourth quarter, the game turned around. Person would outscore the Phoenix 24-15, thanks to the help of a balanced scoring attack that included buckets from Marner, Kelcey Mangum, Madison Dunkley, Aaliyah Jones, and Alexzia Thompson. Dunkley and Thompson led the way in this quarter, as they recorded seven points each.

“We switched to our man defense, and that was the difference,” said Carmichael. “I thought Nydriya had a good game. Madison, in the second half, came in and did some really good things. Aaliyah Williams hit a real critical three for us out of the corner. Madison hit a clutch free throw down the stretch. Alexzia Thompson had another big game. Aaliyah Jones had a couple great rebounds in the final minutes that changed the rhythm. If we hadn’t gotten those rebounds, the game could have ended differently.”

“McMichael had the ball down two, and they could have taken a lead,” said Carmichael. “We just found a way to win down the stretch, fight all the way to the end. I was really happy about beating a solid McMichael team.”

Next up for the Lady Rockets is a Friday night clash with Rockingham County (7-7, 0-5), the last-place team in the Mid-State Athletic 2A/3A.

“They lost some key players from last year,” said Carmichael. “They’ve usually been the team to beat, but they’re struggling a bit right now. That doesn’t matter. I’m going to stress to my players to not overlook Rockingham.”

Comeback falls short

The Person boys came all the way back from a 17-5 first quarter deficit, but McMichael held off the Rockets for a 60-54 win.

In the low-scoring first quarter for Person, Tae Bailey made a three-pointers, while Jaylen Black recorded a bucket.

“We started out the first quarter missing some shots that we’re normally making, or have been capable of making,” said Rockets head coach Charles Dacus. “After we dug that 12-point deficit, we re-grouped in the second quarter, and outscored them the rest of the way (49-43 in the final three quarters).”

The second quarter was much closer than the first, with Person outscoring McMichael 17-15. In this quarter, the Rockets were led by six points each from Bailey and Terrance “Taco” Thompson. In the third quarter, Person climbed even closer, outscoring the Phoenix 16-10 on 11 points from Bailey, four points from Dre Newman, and a free throw from Jaylen Black.

“I thought our defense was pretty solid,” said Dacus. “We started getting shots to go down. Second half, especially, I thought Tae had a really good shooting night. He hit some really good shots down the stretch to make the game more manageable for us.”

McMichael was able to regroup after the third quarter, however, and outscore the Rockets 18-16 to hold on and win the game.

“We cut it down, we had it to a two-point margin in the fourth quarter with about two minutes to go,” said Dacus. “We started fouling them, but they made enough free throws to keep us at bay and win by six.”

Next up for the Rockets is a Friday night clash with Rockingham County (2-12, 0-5), who, just like the girls team, is at the bottom of the conference. The Cougars, however, could be a team that causes Person some trouble.

“We’re going to have to combat their size a couple of different ways,” said Dacus. “First, we’ve got to keep them off the glass by boxing out. We have to limit their touches around the basket. If we play defense the way we’ve been playing, we’ll be in OK shape.”

The plus to having only one game this week is that it provides both Rocket teams plenty of time to practice, something they will not be able to enjoy later this month.

“After this week, we’re going to get into the grind of a game-after-game schedule,” said Dacus. “Not going to be a lot of practice time. This is going to be the opportunity that we have to take right now to get better in every facet of the game that we play.”

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