Rocco guides West Shamokin past Ford City
A hard stare, almost a scowl, appears on the face of Anthony Rocco when the West Shamokin senior begins to have his way on the basketball court and lets the adrenaline buzz take hold.
Call it the Angry Anthony Face.
On Friday at Ford City, Rocco's distinct expression emerged, and West Shamokin (8-6, 3-3) reaped the benefits on its way to a 36-35 win over the Section 1-AA rival Sabers (4-11, 1-5).
Rocco, a 6-foot guard who moved to forward for much of the contest, scored a game-high 14 points and battled inside for the Wolves, who grabbed 16 offensive rebounds to offset a poor shooting night.
“I just tried working my butt off to get the rebounds,” said Rocco, who had 15 rebounds and two putbacks.
Of the position change, he said: “We do it sometimes when we get zoned up because I have a post game and a perimeter game, so they have to respect both of those. I'm not as comfortable inside as I am up top, but if that's where my strengths are, then I'm going to utilize those.”
Defense ruled on both sides, a reality that contributed to the 15-12 halftime score in favor of Ford City, which won its last four home games against the Wolves.
“They obviously slow it down, and we slowed it down tonight,” Ford City coach Greg Hutcherson said. “I'm not upset about (the loss). My players fought hard. They just scored one more point that we did.”
West Shamokin made 5 of 27 shots in the first half, including 1 of 11 from 3-point range. Ford City sank 5 of 15 attempts from the floor.
A fast-break layup by Jesse Sequeira with 2:45 left in the first quarter gave Ford City a 7-3 lead, the largest margin for either team. After that, neither team led by more than two points until a Sequeira bucket put Ford City ahead, 31-28, with 6:10 to play.
Rocco made one free throw with 26 seconds left in the game to deliver West Shamokin a 36-33 lead, the Wolves' largest of the night.
“I was really happy with where we were at defensively,” West Shamokin coach Mike Nagy said. “Offensively, we made 12 of 46 shots, so we were barely over 25 percent. I can't remember a game where we shoot 26 percent and win, but that's what good defense will do, it'll keep you in a game.”
Sequeira and David Lattanzio traded turns scoring for Ford City, particularly in the first half when they combined for all of the Sabers' points. Both finished with 12 points. Blake Bower and Noah Nulph each followed with four points.
Damon Craig complemented Rocco on the inside with nine points, six of which came in the paint. Zane Clowser was West Shamokin's most productive perimeter threat with an eight-point performance that included two 3-pointers.
Just like in the teams' first meeting of the season — a 64-62 West Shamokin win — Ford City again had the ball with a chance to tie in the game's final seconds. Andrew Labutka's 3-point attempt hit off the back of the rim. Noah Nulph grabbed the rebound and scored on a putback as time expired, but it wasn't enough.
“Whoever had the last possession I thought would win the game,” Hutcherson said. “We had a wide open look like we did last time. Same kid. Drew it up the way we wanted to. … The shot just didn't fall.”