Rockets Blast Past Rams in Hoops Showdown - TribPapers

Rockets Blast Past Rams in Hoops Showdown

Leading Ram scorer Josh Lowe scored 21 against ACR Friday. He averages 20 points.

Asheville – A.C. Reynolds took command of the Mountain Athletic Conference in boys’ basketball on Friday with a decisive 47-39 victory at arch-rival T.C. Roberson.

The Rockets (12-4) remained unbeaten in MAC play at 5-0.

Roberson (9-5) dropped into a 3-2 tie for third with McDowell (7-6).

Ahead of them in league standings is Enka (13-1) at 3-1. Enka plays at ACR on Tuesday, Jan. 25 then at TCR Jan. 28. Reynolds so far is the sole team to beat the Jets — winning 80-74 at Enka Dec. 17. The ACR-TCR rematch is Feb. 8. The regular season ends Friday, Feb. 11.

Picking Up Pace

Reynolds led TCR by double digits for much of the second half.

The Rams slowed tempo to nearly double up ACR 11-6 by the end of the opening period. “We played at their pace,” ACR  head coach Ryan Stevens said. For the remaining three periods “we established pace” with fast breaks and quick passing to find open shots. The other major factor was “we dominated the boards.”

Ram head coach Billy Phillips said the main difference early was “we made shots, and they missed.”

But was mostly Reynolds after that. “They’re such an athletic and strong scoring team,” Phillips said. The Rockets outscored TCR 15-7 in the second period, to lead 21-18 at halftime. The Rocket scoring edge was 17-9 in the third period, to produce an 11-point lead.

Roberson got the best of the final period by a 12-9 count — thanks largely to two quick three-pointers by Josh Lowe. He led all scorers in the game with 21 points to surpass his average of 20.1.

Reynolds had solid balanced scoring. Jayden Harper led the way by matching his seasonal average of 14 points. He erupting for 11 in the second half.

Leading Rocket scorer Rakease Passmore leaps toward the rafters. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

‘Masher’ Channels Rodman

“Masher” Asher Cunningham, the rugged football linebacker and runner, had a varsity career night with a “double double.” The husky 6-foot-3 junior post standout pulled down ten rebounds, and scored 12 points. He averages 7.2 boards. He also led ACR in rebounding a season ago at 7.8. He had his best all-around game yet on Friday. He helped bring the ball up the court and pass it around. He set picks. He dove after loose balls.

“I impersonate Dennis Rodman” — as a team player who excels with gritty hustle and hard-nosed defense and rebounding against taller foes, Cunningham said. “I use my body weight” to gain and retain position near the basket.

Leading Rocket scorer Rakease Passmore (18 ppg.) hauls down seven rebounds and DaShawn Stone (9.1 ppg.) 6.5 boards per game. They routinely out-jump taller foes. ACR freshman Declan Brown (10.6 ppg.) is another frequent double-digit Rocket scorer.

Dunk-more Passmore

Passmore made dunks for all three of his baskets Friday. The super sophomore point guard averages an amazing five slams per game. Passmore starred as a freshman a season ago, averaging a team-best 15 points. He is gaining attention far beyond this area.

Passmore credited the Rockets’ dominance for three periods on tighter defense, controlling the boards, and passing and shooting better. Emotionally, too, “our guys got going” and into gear.

Cunningham credits student fans. “Our student section gets us extra hyped up.” Students of both schools were loud in rooting.

This is a very young ACR varsity boys’ squad. Only two of 17 players are seniors and they seldom play. Nine are juniors.

Seasoned Rams

In contrast, Roberson has an unusually veteran varsity squad. Seniors account for four of five Ram top scorers, and for nine of 13 on varsity. Senior Lowe (20 ppg.) carries the scoring load. But sophomore Max McDowell and seniors Braden Blakely, Luke Washburn and Kam White support him. They each average seven to ten points.

Their experience and leadership should pay dividends as the regular season goes on, and then in the state playoffs.

“We’re in a good spot,” Phillips said. “We have to take care of business. We can’t stub our toe” with many more losses,” in order to make playoffs and have a higher seed and thus home games.

These Rams follow a squad which won the MAC last year at 11-3, behind MAC player of the year Quinton Harris who graduated in 2021. TCR finished a game ahead of both ACR and North Buncombe.

TCR and ACR often finish close atop the league. “TC is tough to play — especially here” in Skyland, ACR Coach Stevens said. That made the decisive victory sweeter.

Tiger Leads Cougars

Enka’s leading scorers are Jacob Tiller (19.4 ppg.), 6-5 Ian Clinkscales-King (15.3), Logan Crook (10.4) and point guard Jacob Adair (10.5).)

Asheville changed head coaches earlier this month. James “Tiger” Norman took over on an interim basis for Jordan Phillips, who resigned Jan. 6. This was Phillips’ sixth season leading AHS. Norman coached the Cougars in 2006-11. He starred as a forward for Brevard High School in the early Nineties.

The Cougars lost their leading scorer Theo Antinori, when the fiery guard transferred to Rabun Gap before this season. He averaged a MAC-best 23 points as a junior a season ago. He also led AHS in rebounds and steals.

AHS (1-12; 0-4) and Erwin (0-8; 0-3) are winless in the MAC. Both are behind North Buncombe (7-6 ; 1-3), which hosted Enka Wednesday.

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