The Rocky girls were definitely ready for prime time on Saturday night, playing their best basketball of the season to date in storming past the Decatur MacArthur Lady Generals in the championship game of their own tournament, 72-52.
The 2021 Rock Island-Milan Boosters Thanksgiving Classic featured teams from throughout the state, and Rock Island coach Henry Hall wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his squad after their slow (1-3) start entering the tourney.
“We knew a bit of a slow start wasn’t the end of the world, but we also were aware of the quality of the teams invited to our tournament, especially Decatur MacArthur, which is very quick and athletic,” Hall said. “In the championship game, I couldn’t be prouder of the way we played, putting it all together on both sides of the court.”
Following their victories over Harlem and Thornton Fractional North on Friday, the Rocks rolled over Canton in Saturday afternoon’s semifinal game by the score of 52-37 to set-up the show-down with the Lady Generals.
“We played aggressively from the opening jump and had a 10-point lead after the first quarter, but we knew that Decatur MacArthur can score in bunches, and they did put together a couple of solid runs, but our defense, toughness and tenacity came through in each situation,” Hall said
The Rocks never trailed in the game, but Decatur MacArthur pulled to within one point at 25-24 early in the second quarter, only to watch the Rocks embark on a 13-2 run. Imari McDuffy, Rocky’s senior guard and tournament MVP, scored 11 points in the first half to accompany her stifling defense that resulted in 5 steals in the half.
Rock Island led by 10 at intermission and 12 after the third quarter. The Rocks then poured on the offense in the fourth period to pull away, opening the final period with back-to-back 3-pointers from Bri Stewart and Emily Allison to increase the lead to 18.
The Rocks had four players in double figures in the championship game, paced by McDuffy's 18 points, 7 rebounds and 6 steals. Junior Danae Robinson hit four 3s and added 15 points 3 steals and 3 assists, Allison (all tournament team) chipped in 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists and Stewart had 13 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
Decatur MacArthur’s runner-up performance was led by Christina Rice with 19 points and 9 rebounds.
“Our players worked hard to put us in position to grab this championship, and it is especially rewarding in our own holiday tournament,” Hall said. “We’ve put together a solid five-game winning streak by sharing the basketball, creating optimal scoring opportunities and playing strong defense for four quarters.”
Rock Island 52, Canton 37: Baskets were hard to come by for both teams in the early going of the semifinal game, as Rocky led the Canton Lady Giants 6-4 after the 1st quarter.
The second period was when the Rocks' offensive game began to take shape. McDuffy opened the scoring by converting two free throws after an impressive steal in the open court, and Allison followed with a long 3-pointer, part of a 9-0 run by Rock Island that opened a 10-point lead at 15-5.
Canton showed their considerable grit by slowly fighting back to tie the score at 16-16 behind the shooting of Katie Smith and Jena Geoforth, but the Rocks dominated the final minutes of the half to lead 23-18 at the midpoint.
Rocky had no trouble maintaining and adding to their lead in the second half.
Allison led Rock Island with 12 points and 4 rebounds and junior Kayla Rice added 9 points and 4 steals. McDuffy also chipped in 9 points, 7 steals and 5 assists and junior Denae Robinson contributed a 10 points.