Having lost one double-digit lead in the course of Friday night's 47-32 boys basketball win over Gross, Ralston had no intention of letting another one go.
With just a 22-20 lead at halftime after watching a 12-point advantage dissipate under a steady Cougar comeback attack, the home court Rams (6-3) held Gross (5-5) to just two field goals and 12 total points in the second half and went on a 25-point spree to seal the win over their archrivals.
“We needed this one,” RHS coach Jason Jackson said. “It's a good win. We knew we had to make our move after they put that run on us in the second quarter and we stepped up and made some plays we needed to make.”
The Rams were led by good perimeter shooting from Josh Belling and a forceful inside game from Zach Flott, as both seniors tallied 11 points for the contest. Ralston senior guard Marcellous Gardner led all scorers with 13 points and took the lead in pushing the Ram offense in its transition game.
Following a 7-7 tie midway through the first quarter, the Rams went on a 12-0 run led by some hard-charging through the lane from Gardner, who took one trip to the rack untouched and on his next completed an acrobatic layup with a Cougar foul leading to an old-fashioned 3-point play.
But with 19-7 lead at the 5-minute mark in quarter two, Gross went on a run of its own, scoring 10 unanswered.
“It's gonna be a dogfight,” Jackson said. “You always know it will be with a quality team like Gross and a great coach like Tim Powers. But we had a lot of confidence in our guys. Especially when it comes to Josh, Marcellous and Zach and what they bring to the floor. We just did what we had to do to make plays and get the lead built back.”
Out of the break, the Gross shooting went cold and the Cougars went nearly five minutes before posting their first points on a pair of free throws by Joe McCoy and the squad did not tally its first points from the field until the closing minute of the third quarter when Nick Wonder converted a layup and a foul shot for a 3-point play.
Jake Hansen led the Cougars with 10 points, with Wonder chipping in 9.
In summing up the loss, Powers said his team needs to find some consistency if it wants to compete with the remaining teams on the Cougars' schedule.
“We've had an up-and-down season,” he said. “There's still a lot of work to do in all facets of the game. Offensively, we had too many lapses. Defensively, we're not doing a good enough job executing off some mistakes other teams are making.”
In the week ahead, the Cougars will host another River Cities Conference rival in Skutt with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff Friday. RHS was slated to play Waverly at home on Tuesday, with a road trip to Lincoln Pius X on Saturday at 6:45 p.m.
Both teams will take part in the River Cities Conference Tournament opening play on Jan. 21. Seeding for the tourney has not yet taken place.