LOWELLVILLE, Ohio (WYTV) – The Lowellville Rockets are peaking at just the right time. Tuesday night they rode the emotions of the home crowd and a 1,00 point scorer to beat the league leading McDonald Blue Devils 71-68. The victory improves the Rockets to 9-4 on the season, and 7-3 in the ITCL. McDonald falls to 12-4, 8-3 in the league.
With the win, the ITCL Lower Tier now has three teams tied in the loss column for first place. Western Reserve went into league action Tuesday night with a 7-3 mark.
“These guys have heart that I can’t explain,” Rockets Coach Vince Nittoli remarked. “They click, they get so excited, they so anxious, as a coaching staff we have a hard time calming them down. This is a strong, close-knit team.”
The Rockets senior guard Alex Harklerode had the Rocket crowd on it’s feet in the final minutes of the contest with his play and heroics. Following a basket by the Devils Anthony Pugh gave them a 65-62 lead, Harklerode bombed a three-pointer from the right corner to tie the contest at 65 with 1:43 remaining.
Paolo DePasquale added a basket 22-seconds later to give the Rockets the lead at 67-65, with Tyler Barone adding another score at the 52-second mark to make it 69-65. Harklerode would then seal the game away with a drive that resulted in a foul, and he would connect on both free throws to make it 71-65.
“Patience on offense, and just move our feet on defense,” Nittoli said was the key to the Rockets 9-3 run to close the game. “We knew if we broke the press we knew we just had to execute in half-court making sure we took good shots and good accurate passes. Take care of the ball and be patient.”
Pugh would connect on a NBA length three-pointer from the left point with 4-second left to make it 71-68, but the Devils could not deny the Rockets inbound. Pugh would throw up another long shot as time expired, but his attempt fell well short of the mark.
Harklerode would lead the Rockets in scoring with 24 points while also dishing out 5 assist and making 7 steals. Cole Beatty added 13 points while recording 11 rebounds, and Paolo DePasquale scored 12 points with 7 rebounds and 6 assist.
“It feels good. This is the first time that I’ve beaten them,” Harklerode said. “That was my best game of the year. I couldn’t have done it though without the team. It was a team effort.”
“Alex Harklerode is unbelievable,” Nittoli exclaimed. “He leaves it all on the floor every single night.”
“Defensively he is all over the place. I can’t control him, and on offense I can’t control him either,” Nittoli said with a laugh.
But to add icing on the cake, the Rockets senior guard Paolo DePasquale scored his 1,000 point at the 4:26 mark of the second quarter. That basket gave the Rockets their largest lead of the night of 12-points at 29-17.
“It was a lot of hard work, but my team mates and coaches deserve as much credit as I do here,” DePasquale remarked about the accomplishment. “I don’t think I would even be able to enjoy it if we didn’t come out with the win.”
The Rockets lead throughout much of the game as they held a 17-14 lead after the first quarter, and had a 35-30 advantage at the halftime intermission. But the Devils kept chipping away at the Rockets lead in the second half and finally tied the game at 48 just 16-seconds into the fourth stanza.
After the lead flipped back and forth, the Devils Brad Woodley gave them a 63-62 lead with 3:01 remaining. Pugh would then hit a jumper to give them a 65-62 lead with a little over two minutes left in the contest. That is when Harklerode and the Rockets went on a 9-3 run to close out the game.
The Devils were led on the night by Pugh and Woodley who each scored 26 points. Matt Howard led them in rebounds with 10.
COURTESY: Lowell Spencer – ITCLFootball.net