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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Rockets beat Gehlen in tight matchup

Monday, January 28, 2013

(Sentinel photo by Andy Lenz) R-U senior Cam Kuchel drills a three in the Rocket's 63-61 win over Gehlen on Friday. He made two key free throws in the game's closing stages and finished the night with 16 points.
REMSEN -- It got dead silent in the Remsen-Union gym as Gehlen's Blake Wiltgen fired off a last second shot to tie the game, and a jubilant roar followed as the ball bounced off the rim onto the floor.

In a fiercely contested conference matchup, the Rockets came out on top 63-61.

"Gehlen's a very good basketball team and I was really pleased with how hard our guys played," R-U coach Steve Neuberger said. "They competed really well for 32 minutes."

(Sentinel photo by Andy Lenz) Gehlen sophomore Alex Kellen rises for a layup. Kellen led the Jays with 13 points in their narrow loss to Remsen-Union in a conference matchup Friday.
In the early stages of the game, Remsen-Union gained an edge and finished the first quarter ahead 20-9.

"Our guys had a purpose to the game tonight. They really came out with a lot of enthusiasm, lot of intensity," Neuberger said.

Gehlen coach Mike Langel said the Jays got off to a slow start.

(Sentinel photo by Andy Lenz) Gehlen junior Colton Kneip battles with an R-U defender to get a shot in for the Jays in their conference game Friday.
"R-U kind of kicked us in the teeth right away," he said.

Gehlen fought hard to get back into the game and five consecutive points by sophomore Alex Kellen got the Jays within reach.

But the Rockets answered quickly, created defensive turnovers and extended their lead to 13 at the half, 34-21.

Both teams kept up the intensity after the break. Senior Michael Whitehead scored four quick points for the Jays, but R-U junior Austen Shock put an end to that run by nailing a three.

The game got closer again when Rockets' junior Tanner Hilbrands got called for a technical foul. Gehlen made both free throws and also scored on the next possession to shrink R-U's lead to seven.

Things were evenly matched in the following minutes and Whitehead made a bucket at the buzzer to get his team within five points going into the final period, 48-43.

The early moments of the fourth stanza belonged to the Rockets again, who pulled away by nine points.

But the Jays refused to give up and got within two points when Whitehead made a three with 1:27 to go.

After both teams had turnovers on their next possessions, a foul sent R-U senior Cam Kuchel to the line with 0:27 left to go.

He made both free throws to extend his team's lead to four again.

Gehlen was running out of time but Whitehead made another three with 14 seconds left.

"We knew Gehlen would make some runs," Neuberger said. "I was really proud of how our guys answered. They didn't get rattled."

Stock was fouled and made one of his two free throws to get R-U up by two.

The Jays had one last chance to avert defeat, but Wiltgen's shot did not go in as time expired.

"We were out of timeouts and we had to go with what we got," Langel said. "It was a nice shot, he was open. It was one of those that could have rolled in or it could have rolled out. It chose to roll out."

After an exciting basketball game, the Rockets and the home crowd celebrated the victory.

Disappointment painted the faces of the Gehlen players, coaches and fans.

"It took a lot of energy to come back and have a chance to tie or win it at the end," Langel said. "R-U played a really nice game. every time we made a pretty good run at them they countered it with some nice shots."

He was proud of the way his guys finished, Langel said.

Hilbrands led R-U in scoring with 22 points. Kuchel finished the night with 16.

"Both those guys have been great leaders for us all year long," Neuberger said. "The other guys look to them, especially in tight games. The two of them play with a lot of emotion, a lot of pride and at the same time those are two guys that never get rattled. Our other guys feed off of that."

Stock added eight points for the Rockets.

Hilbrands also led his team defensively with 10 rebounds. Senior Andrew Hagert had eight. Stock grabbed four steals.

Neuberger was pleased with his team's overall effort.

"Right now, our guys are playing with a lot of confidence," he said. "We're getting a lot of contribution from a lot of different guys. We're playing some pretty good basketball right now."

Gehlen's Michael Whitehead scored a game-high 25 points. Kellen followed with 13 and Wiltgen had 11.

On the defensive end, Wiltgen grabbed 10 rebounds. Junior Colton Kneip had six.

With the win, R-U's record improves to 15-3 and 7-2 in the War Eagle Conference. They will face Unity Christian in an away game on Friday.

"We'll rest up after a hard game and hopefully we can give the same effort again," Neuberger said.

The loss puts Gehlen at a record of 13-3 and 7-1 in conference, after R-U handed the Jays their first WEC loss. They will look to bounce back in a home matchup with Spalding Catholic on Tuesday.

"The kids have accepted it and are ready to go. We'll regroup and and get things rolling again next week," Langel said.

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