Rockets Clamp Down on Defense

Annandale's Eric Etherly, front, defended by Mike Risden, says slower-paced teams might
Annandale's Eric Etherly, front, defended by Mike Risden, says slower-paced teams might "score 60 or 70" on the up-tempo Atoms, "but at the same time, we are going to come in and put up 90." (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Maybe the only thing about Richard Montgomery's 46-37 victory over Magruder on Jan. 29 that was more surprising than the final score was the teams' fourth-quarter scoring.

Richard Montgomery 15, Magruder 0.

"Someone told me right afterward, 'Did you know we held them scoreless in the fourth quarter?' " Rockets Coach Scott Spear said. "I was surprised, but then I thought about it, and there were a couple of good possessions [in the fourth quarter] where we held the ball for a full minute" before scoring.

And when they didn't keep possession, the Rockets played some outstanding defense, led by senior point guard Alex Chike, who has become the most important part of the team's game plan. When he went down with a knee injury in the opener of the Paint Branch holiday tournament, the Rockets were 3-2. Including a loss in that game, and the five subsequent ones Chike missed, Richard Montgomery went 0-6, and allowed 60 points per game.

"When he was hurt, we had to play a lot of zone," Spear said. "He puts a lot of pressure on the opposing point guard, and a lot of those are teams' big scorers."

Since Chike returned for the 45-40 victory Jan. 22 at Blair, the Rockets have split their four games but have not given up more than 44 points in any of them. In addition to the Magruder victory, the Rockets lost 44-43 to Blake and 41-40 to Sherwood.

"That's four straight games we've held teams under 45 points," Spear said. "Even though we won only [two games], it was our best week of the season."

Annandale's Atomic Rush

Annandale is warming to the role as the fastest team in the Virginia AAA Patriot District.

Led by senior Erik Etherly's 17.3 points per game, the Atoms (10-7, 8-2) are averaging 76.1 points per game, the top public school offense in Northern Virginia and sixth-best in the area entering tonight's game against Lake Braddock (11-6, 5-5).

The flip side: The Atoms' defense, however, is ranked seventh out of the eight teams in the Patriot District as it allows 67.8 points per game.

"When you run and you play an up-tempo transition style game, in return, you are going to give up points," said Etherly, a 6-5 Northeastern-bound left-handed slasher. "So, teams that might only average 40 points might come in here and score 60 or 70, but at the same time, we are going to come in and put up 90."

Annandale has won seven of eight and, since returning from their December holiday tournament in Georgia, the Atoms have lost just two games -- both to No. 10 T.C. Williams (15-3).

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