Black Bears deny winless Rockets

RAPID RIVER – In many popular sports, a team must have the ball in order to win the game.

If the other team has it, winning becomes much more difficult.

So it was Monday night, as the Rapid River Rockets were on the cusp of earning their first win heading into the fourth quarter. But the Big Bay de Noc Black Bears had possession of the basketball for the duration of the quarter and came away with the 43-33 Central U.P. Conference win.

“We came out ready to play in the first half, but backed off a little bit in the second half and played timid,” said Rockets coach Michelle Carne. “The possession arrows just always seemed to be going their way; it’s just how the chips fall sometimes.”

The Black Bears (3-11 overall, 2-8 CUP) had a 5-0 run in the first quarter to boost them ahead 8-6. However, Hannah Kanyuh and Rikki Stropich of the Rockets got their offense rolling in the second quarter and led their team to a 16-15 halftime lead.

Both teams exchanged buckets in the third quarter, but some nice drives and key passing from the Black Bears gave them the one-point edge heading into the fourth.

“We hustled and our teamwork was outstanding,” said Black Bears coach Jacki Knopf. “The girls were getting to open spots, looking for passes, and playing tight defense. Just an overall great game.”

Sami Sundling pushed her team ahead with a textbook crossover move to the hoop. But Stropich got her team back in it when she put up a shot and grabbed her own rebound for the putback.

That was the beginning of the end for the Rockets (0-13 overall, 0-10 CUP), as Big Bay would completely take over the game. Rachel Leckson drove into the lane and got fouled on a shot that would fall anyway, and she put in her free throw to convert the old-fashioned triple.

Hannah Kanyuh knocked down a three-pointer to bring her team within three, but the Black Bears didn’t panic. They just continued to crash the boards and get to the free throw line, keeping the pace at a comfortable level.

“We’ve had some trouble in the past with slowing down the game, but we’re starting to get the ball slowed down and maintain possession,” Knopf said.

The Rockets, who took the jayvee game 31-21, resume Friday at Engadine, while the Black Bears host Carney-Nadeau Thursday.