The Rock Island boys basketball team used its size and collective skill to get what it wanted offensively against Moline at Wharton Field House on Saturday night.
The Rocks put up 50 points in the first half of a 94-79 Western Big 6 Conference win over Moline to earn their fifth straight win.
Marieon Anderson scored a game-high 31 points with 14 rebounds for the Rocks (6-2, 4-1 Big 6), using his 6-foot-6 frame to turn rebounds into nearly automatic points inside. Moline (6-2, 4-2) struggled to deny the junior as Anderson shot 12 of 14 from the field and 7 of 7 at the line to tally his varsity career high.
In a pandemic-shortened season that began abruptly with just a couple weeks of practice, Anderson says the Rocks are starting to find their flow.
“We’re playing for each other instead of for ourselves,” Anderson said. “We know as a team that there’s no way we shouldn’t be No. 1 in the conference, undefeated. … We know we’re talented, it’s just about playing as a team.”
The individual performances were just as impressive as Rocky’s entire starting five produced.
Starters Jordan Rice (19 points), Colton Sigel (17), Amarion Nimmers (17), and Baker Beal (14 rebounds, six points) set the tone early as Rocky opened the game with a 14-4 lead.
A big reason for that was the rebounding advantage. Rocky out-rebounded Moline 25-3 in the first half.
Anderson says his 31 points easily could come from a number of teammates on a given night, but he exploited his size advantage inside in a game in which he didn’t attempt a 3-pointer. Anderson did not miss a shot from the field after the first quarter.
“That’s why teams struggle against us, because we have so many weapons,” Anderson said. “It’s about being the next person ready.”
Brock Harding led the Maroons with 23 points and Big 6 scoring leader Ryne Schimmel added 21. The Maroons cut the game to single digits at 76-66 with 3:33 to play, but the comeback came too late after trailing 50-28 at halftime.
Moline outscored Rocky 51-44 in the second half. Rocky out-rebounded Moline 44-16.
“Coming in, we knew we had to get rebounds and box-outs, and I thought we came out pretty slow with our box-outs,” Harding said. “We know as a small team, that’s one of the biggest things we have to focus on. And we just didn’t do that early.”
Rocky took advantage of the extra opportunities as Moline shot 7 of 26 from deep and 28 of 71 from the field in the loss. Rocky was 36 of 64 from the field and 8 of 19 from deep, making 14 of 18 at the free-throw line.
Rocky caught fire in the second quarter, making 13 of 17 field goals.
Rocky coach Thom Sigel credited both teams’ effort, noting Moline had come off big road wins at Quincy on Tuesday and Sterling on Friday.
Sigel said he would rather not give up 79 points, but he knows Moline has the ability to get hot and come back. Schimmel scored 16 points in the second half.
“The fact that we were able to really play well offensively helped us,” he said. “We’re starting to get better. We don’t have a lot of time now, but we want to keep improving.”
Anderson said the loss against United Township to open conference play this season sent the team a message.
“That just got us in the mode that teams are going to come at our necks every night,” he said, “and we have to bring that same energy.”