Coming off of three tough tests in the State Farm Holiday Classic, and with a big game against North Scott in Saturday's IHMVCU Shootout, the Rock Island girls' basketball team needed a breather.
By doing exactly what they wanted on Thursday, they got it with a 73-34 win over United Township in Western Big Six Conference action.
"We came home (from State Farm) and worked on some things we needed to improve on and the kids responded," RI coach Henry Hall said. "We got some kids some playing time they needed. We got (freshman) Emily Allison in her first varsity game, and I think she is going to help us down the line.
"It was a good night for us because we did what we wanted to do and that is not worry about who we are playing, but just worrying about ourselves."
The Rocks (16-1, 5-0 Big 6) jumped ahead early and never gave the Panthers much of a chance. Hall went six deep on his bench in the first quarter and no starter played more than 13 minutes in the win.
Meanwhile, the Panthers (3-14, 0-5) had exactly the start they could not afford to have against the Rocks. They were guilty of 12 first-quarter turnovers (26 for the game) and could not stop RI's Brea Beal, who had 10 first-quarter points.
"Twelve? That's better than what our coaches had, they said it was 16 turnovers," UT coach Carie Walker said. "We knew coming in that we had to play a perfect game, and that meant no turnovers and making layups.
"We needed to be aware of where (Beal) was all the time, and she wound up with some wide-open shots, and with our lack of size, she dominated inside. She is a fantastic player and she has some great complementary players around her."
Beal finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four steals, three assists and three blocks, playing no more than four minutes in each of the first three quarters and just two possessions in the fourth.
"Definitely, after that tough schedule (at State Farm) we needed to have a game like this," Beal said.
Now, both teams will turn their attention to Saturday. UT will play Davenport West in the shootout opener and the Rocks face North Scott in the night's finale.
"It's hard to say much after a game like this one," Walker said. "We've had our share of losses, but we have to get back and get ready for Saturday. We will look at the tape and work on some things we have to improve."
Rock Island has a little extra to play for after playing poorly last year in a blowout loss to Pleasant Valley in the shootout.
"I feel like those last three games at State Farm got us ready for Saturday," Hall said. "Those players who played that game last year want to make up for that one."
Added Beal, "We remember that and we have talked about it. We have been playing all season with a chip on our shoulder because we want to be better than what we showed all of last season."
Jade Hunter led UT with nine points and six rebounds. The Panthers scored 16 of their 34 points from the free-throw line.