The Nevada Union boys basketball team dug itself a mighty big hole Tuesday night at Albert Ali Gymnasium. A hole the Miners were never quite able to get themselves out of as the Rocklin Thunder rolled to 58-50 victory.
Rocklin’s defense was smothering in the first half, and when NU got open shots they just didn’t fall as the Thunder spoiled the Miners Sierra Foothill League home opener.
“(Rocklin’s) a pretty physical team,” NU head coach Jeff Dellis said. “I don’t think we responded to their physicality very well. I think we were reactionary rather than proactive, and as a result of that we got ourselves into a hole.”
The Miners opened the game with five straight points getting a 3-pointer from Jason Mickel followed by a Cody Gardner drive to the hoop, but a 19-2 run by Rocklin that stretched from the first quarter into the second had NU playing from behind for the remainder of the game.
By the first half’s conclusion the Miners were staring at 27-14 deficit.
“You give up 27 points in a half your’e going to be in a lot of ball games,” Dellis said. “At the same time you’re not going to win a lot of ball games scoring 14 in the first half.”
The Miners came out for the second half determined to right their ship. After Rocklin extended the lead to 16 at 32-16 a couple minutes into the third quarter, NU’s Lucas Vojak scored inside, Mickel added a bucket and Vojak followed with a put back dunk that got the crowd going.
Vojak would finish with nine points and three blocks before fouling out in the fourth. Mickel ended the night with eight points.
The Miners kept chipping away as Sean Zuccaro scored on a fast break then Nolan Stefani followed with a 3-pointer. Stefani was then was fouled on his next 3-point attempt garnering him three free throws, of which he hit two.
Stefani was the Miners’ leading scorer with 13, including three 3-pointers. Zuccaro finished with 10 points.
By the third quarter’s end, the Miners were looking at a six-point deficit, 35-29.
In the fourth, both offenses came alive. Vojak and Zuccaro scored for the Miners. The Thunder responded with buckets from Taylor Cherry and Hayden Cook.
Back and forth the game went, with the Miners slowly inching closer to the Thunder. A Stefani 3-pointer followed by a pair of Elliot Fournier free throws made the score 42-39 in Rocklin’s favor with just over four minutes left in the game.
Rocklin responded to the pressure with a 9-2 run behind a pair of Cherry lay-ins, a Drew Ardissone bank shot 3-pointer and a couple free throws that put the game out of reach.
“It’s tough to dig yourself out of a hole,” Dellis said. “We battled back to within three but couldn’t quite get over the hump. It takes a lot of energy just to get back into the game.”
Despite the loss, Dellis said he is optimistic that his team can still do big things this season, but knows it won’t be easy.
“We can play with anybody in the league,” he said. “This league is going to be a dogfight, no one will go undefeated in this league, and its going to be a two or three loss team that wins the league so now we need to make one up on the road somewhere. We don’t have too much time to worry about this, we got Granite Bay coming up. It’s going to be a dog fight. Every game is a dog fight. There are no nights off.”
With the loss the Miners drop to 8-11 overall and 1-1 in SFL play. NU takes the court again at 7 p.m. Thursday when it hosts Granite Bay (12-6, 1-0 SFL).
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.