FAYETTEVILLE — A large group of fans sat behind the Fayetteville Rockets bench Tuesday night, cheering when appropriate but for the most part quietly waiting for one particular moment.
Senior Max Iles entered the Rockets’ non-conference game against the Felicity-Franklin Cardinals on Tuesday night with 984 career points, 16 shy of becoming the fourth boys’ player to crack the 1,000 point plateau at Fayetteville.
After an apparent ankle injury slowed him down in the third quarter, Iles scored six points in the fourth (all on free-throws) to reach the milestone and lead his team to a convincing 70-43 victory Tuesday night.
Felicity scored the first basket of the game on a Dalton Cochran layup. It would be the only lead the Cardinals had all game. Fayetteville quickly answered with back-to-back three-pointers, taking a 6-2 lead. The Cardinals cut the lead to 13-11 late in the first quarter and trailed by just four points heading into the second quarter.
Dominic Ruwe cut the Rockets’ lead back down to four midway through the second quarter, but the Rockets answered quickly. Cole Schaefer hit a three-pointer, followed by a triple from Max Iles. After a Caleb Dowers steal, Max Lanham converted a layup that capped off an 8-0 run for Fayetteville that took less than a minute of game time.
Iles wasn’t done. Later in the quarter, he drove into the paint directly into a pair of Felicity defenders. Fighting through the contact, Iles got the basket to fall and converted the ensuing free-throw, giving his team a 36-21 lead. The Rockets led by 16 points at halftime.
Schaefer started the third quarter with a run of his own. He scored the first seven points of the quarter, all on offensive rebounds. During that run, Iles appeared to injure his right ankle, causing him to leave the game. He returned a minute later, limping slightly and in obvious discomfort.
Nonetheless, his team rolled over the Cardinals. The only drama that remained revolved around Iles’ chase for 1,000 points, and while it took longer than most thought it would, in the end a free-throw with 3:56 left in the game allowed Iles to join the exclusive club, joining his brother D.J. Iles, who graduated in 2014 and accomplished the feat in January 2013.
Max Iles finished the game as the team’s leading scorer with those 16 points. Lanham was right behind with 15 while Schaefer added 12.
Fayetteville head coach Darryl Iles said after the game that he believed his team is playing well, though they still need to improve on a few things.
“I think we’re playing pretty well,” Iles said. “I think we’re getting better. There’s still room for improvement, especially on the defensive end and rebounding. Some games we seem to really rebound the ball well, but tonight I don’t we rebounded as well as we should have.”
The team’s defense and rebounding picked up in the second half, largely due to Iles and the rest of Fayetteville’s coaching staff sending a message at halftime.
“We challenged them,” Iles said. “We had to play better defense, we have to rebound because we want to try to run and we had to get them better opportunities.”
Fayetteville has two more games this week, both league contests at home. The team faces West Union on Friday, Feb. 5 before turning around and battling the Eastern Warriors on Saturday, Feb. 6.
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Southern Hills Athletic Conference
East Clinton 49, Whiteoak 36
Eastern 42, Peebles 39
North Adams 52, Manchester 39
Fairfield 67, Clermont Northeastern 65
Blanchester 72, West Union 34
Lynchburg 73, Hillsboro 58
Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference
Amelia 53, Cincinnati Trailblazers 28
Mt. Healthy 60, Amelia 56
Western Brown 61, Goshen 42
Cincinnati Country Day 46, Norwood 45
Bethel-Tate 45, Ripley 27
Batavia 44, Williamsburg 42