Outplaying their opponent has been a staple of success for Robinson High School's boys' basketball team.
The Maroons did it again for about 28 minutes Monday night, but it was the four minutes they didn't that proved to be the difference in their 44-39 loss to Rockville in the championship game of the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic in Terre Haute.
Robinson dug themselves an early hole they could never completely battle back from, resulting in just their second loss of the season.
"The start of the game is what killed us," RHS head coach Mack Thompson said. "We gave the game away in the first four minutes and made it harder on ourselves. But, the effort we gave the last 28 minutes is enough for me to go home with a good feeling."
The Maroons were slow getting out the gate for the first time this season, as Rockville scored the first three baskets of the game to take a 6-0 lead with 5:40 to play.
Aaron Siler finally knocked down a jumper in the lane with 5:25 to go to break the drought, but Rockville answered with a 7-0 run to take a 13-2 lead with 3:17 remaining.
"You can't get down like that against a good team," Thompson said. "It was just a lack of focus by us on the defensive end. We made some personnel changes and the guys came of the bench and did an outstanding job."
A three-pointer by Siler after a steal by Cory Blount pulled Robinson to within 13-5 with 2:30 left, but the Maroons trailed 16-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The Maroons would continue to climb back in the game in the second quarter, as two free throws by Michael Akande and a layup by Derrick Nicholas made the score 16-10 with 6:19 to play before halftime. After a basket by Rockville, Landen Hoagland followed with a baseline jumper and Akande finished off a steal by Blount with a slam dunk to pull Robinson to within 18-14 with 3:55 remaining.
Following two free throws by Rockville's Gary Ulrich, Siler bagged a three-pointer to close the gap to 20-17 with 2:55 left. That started a 7-2 RHS spurt which saw Robinson get within 22-21 on a steal and layup by Nicholas at the 1:30 mark. However, two free throws by Rockville's Jordon McFall with 46.2 seconds left gave Rockville a 24-21 lead at halftime.
Rockville pushed the lead back to seven at the start of the third quarter with two baskets, while Robinson went the first three minutes of the period without scoring.
A basket by Siler at the 4:55 mark ended the scoreless drought and the Maroons scored six of the last eight points of the period in a low-scoring third quarter to get within 30-27 heading into the final eight minutes.
A drive and layup by Blount 20 seconds into the final period pulled Robinson to within one again, 30-29, but a four-point sequence by Rockville on the following possession proved damaging to the Maroons.
Rockville's Joel Wittenmyer made a layup and was fouled with 7:02 to play to put Rockville back up three. Wittenmyer would miss the free throw, but as Robinson was corralling the rebound, Brayden Scott was whistled for a foul that gave the ball back to Rockville. The Rox would capitalize on the turnover, as McFall converted a drive into a hoop to make the score 34-29 with 5:35 to go.
Nicholas would sink two free throws on the ensuing possession to trim the lead back to three, but a free throw by Mahurin and three-point play by Mahurin pushed the lead to 38-31 with 3:56 left. The score would remain until Akande scored on a putback with 1:33 left to make the score 38-33, but he missed a free throw that would have gotten the Maroons to within four.
Two free throws by Ulrich pushed the lead to 40-33 with 1:23 left, but Siler knocked down a three-pointer with 1:04 on the clock to close the gap to 40-36. After two more free throws from Ulrich with 56.1 seconds left, Robinson misfired on four three-point attempts on their next possession. Ulrich would add another free throw with 24.7 seconds left, then Scott banked in a three-pointer with 12.2 seconds left to make the score 43-39. Ulrich added another free throw with 11.8 seconds left, then a RHS turnover allowed Rockville to run out the clock and secure the win.
"We fought all the way to the final buzzer," Thompson said. "We got down 13-2, but kept battling. We did what we wanted to do for the most part, we just didn't make shots around the basket. Give them (Rockville) credit, they were patient and made plays. Tonight, we just didn't make them when we needed to, but you can't fault our effort."
For the game, Robinson actually made more field goals (15) than Rockville (14), including outscoring the Rox 12-3 from the three-point line and outrebounded them 30-27. However, the Rox held a big advantage at the free throw line, which was a huge factor in the outcome. Rockville connected on 15-20 fouls shots (75 percent), while Robinson was just 5-10 from the charity stripe (50 percent).
"We had the bad stretch to start the game and another in the second half, but other than that, I thought we were the better team on the floor," Thompson said. "We had so many shots around the basket with contact that we didn't finish and four or five chances at and-1s. But, the shots just didn't go in tonight and that's basketball."
Shooting was an issue for maybe the first time this year for the Maroons. Robinson made just 15-45 field goal attempts (33 percent), including 11-29 from two-point range (38 percent) and 4-16 from three-point range (25 percent). Rockville was a bit better shooting the ball, as they made 14-33 shots from the floor (42 percent), which included a 13-23 performance from inside the arc (57 percent) and a 1-10 effort from long distance (10 percent).
Siler topped RHS with 15 points, two rebounds and one steal, while Nicholas posted nine points, eight rebounds and one steal. Akande totaled six points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots, one steal and one assist, Blount contributed four points, five steals, four rebounds and two assists, Scott netted three points and four rebounds and Hoagland added two points, four rebounds, one steal and one assist.
McFall led Rockville with 13 points and five rebounds, while Ulrich recorded 10 points, five rebounds and two assists. Mahurin totaled nine points, five rebounds, four steals, three blocked shots and two assists and Wittenmyer added eight points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Despite the loss, Thompson was pleased with his team's peformance in the tournament and believes it will help them throughout the remainder of the season.
"I have a much better feeling about where we are at after today's game," Thompson said. "We had four contrasting styles we had to go against in this tournament and got a look at everything but the kitchen sink. This type of atmosphere and they teams we played will be huge for us. We came to get better and I think we are getting there."
Robinson (12-2) will play at Hutsonville-Palestine for a Little Illini Conference contest Friday at 6:15 p.m. The Maroons will also participate in the Effingham St. Anthony Shootout Saturday against Madison at 1 p.m.