In the end, it took experience mixed with a little youth to get the job done.
Rock Island senior Jason Jones took over in the fourth quarter to give the Rocks a 58-56 win over rival Moline, but it was the play of sophomore Lacey Watson that put the Rocks on top.
Watson had 13 points and 12 rebounds in his Western Big Six varsity debut and also had four assists, including on a Jerry Hacker basket that put the Rocks up four points in the final seconds.
"It was good experience," Watson said. "This was a rival game so we came out and ... we knew we had to pick it up on defense, attack the basket, get better shot selections and if you're open, take it."
The Rocks (3-1, 1-0) took their fair share of shots but struggled to hit them through most of the night, shooting 38 percent from the field. After fighting back to tie the game through three quarters, Jones took over, scoring eight of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter and didn't miss a shot to lead the Rocks to their 11th straight win over their rivals.
"It's always going to be tough to win at a historic place like Wharton Field House," Jones said. "They played a very good first half, we just had to stick to our gameplan, calm down and get our composure back."
The Rocks led 17-13 after the first quarter before Moline put together two 7-0 runs to take a 32-26 halftime lead. The Maroons were led by senior post player Andy McLaughlin, who scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the first half.
The Rocks had no answer for McLaughlin, but the senior post player found himself in foul trouble for most of the night, picking up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter.
Without McLaughlin, the Maroons (4-2, 0-1) got contributions from the rest of the lineup as Jordan Borkhardt and Anfernee Crompton each had 12 points.
"We’re trying to do a better job to find ways to keep (McLaughlin) on the floor longer," Moline head coach Jeff Schimmel said. "He’s a big kid and there were a lot of jumping contests around the rim and unfortunately sometimes the biggest of the bunch gets picked out."
The Rocks took advantage of McLaughlin's absence in the third quarter, going on a 12-0 run in the span of less than two minutes to take a 42-39 lead, largely due to the play of senior C.J. Neville, who had two straight steals and scored four of his 15 points during the run.
With his seniors stepping up and getting a sophomore involved, Rock Island head coach Thom Sigel is pleased with the play of his young team so far.
"We see a lot of good and a lot of bad," he said. "I like the fact that they just keep competing and the biggest things is we got a road win and those aren't easy to come by."