by Eric Clutter | Correspondent
Kent -- With first place in the Metro Division of the Portage Trail Conference well within their sights, the Streetsboro boys basketball team continued its strong play Jan. 29 at Kent Roosevelt.
Looking to avenge a 58-55 home-court loss to the Rough Riders Dec. 14, the Rockets started strong and finished strong in defeating Kent 52-37.
The victory allowed the Rockets (9-6, 8-2) to remain one game behind Metro front-runner Norton with four divisional games remaining, the biggest of which being Feb. 15 when Streetsboro travels to Norton, perhaps with the Metro crown at stake.
"The guys are hungry right now," said Streetsboro head coach Nick Marcini after his team's fifth straight Metro victory. "It was the same thing the other night with Ravenna, start out hot and have a lull the second and third quarter. I don't know if you can develop that killer instinct in a week, two weeks or three weeks. We've been preaching it. Hopefully, we can string together four quarters here. If we do, I think we have something special.
"At the end of the day, a win is a win is a win, and we'll take it. I've been telling the guys if you want to win championships, you have to win every game. That's how we've been taking it, one game at a time."
After outscoring the Ravens by 15 points in the opening quarter of a win Jan. 25, the Rockets, behind the long-range shooting of senior Jordan Matusik, soared to a 19-7 lead after one quarter. Matusik drilled a trio of three-pointers in the frame as Streetsboro led by 15 points late in the period.
"I thought it was going to be a long game," said Kent coach Ben Dunlap of the opening moments. "But I told the guys, we gave up three open threes to Matusik and other than that, I thought our defense was good in the first quarter. But when you spot the best shooter in the league three open shots, that's nine points.
"Other than that, I was very, very pleased defensively."
The Rough Riders (4-11, 4-6) clamped down defensively in the second stanza and used a 6-0 quarter-ending run to reduce the Rockets' advantage to 28-17 at the intermission.
Kent, behind Joseph Watts' seven points, outscored Streetsboro 13-10 in the third quarter to pull within eight points through 24 minutes.
Watts then opened the final frame with a layup at the 7-minute, 11-second mark that drew the Rough Riders with 38-32.
However, as has been the team's Achilles' heel throughout the season, scoring became a problem, and the Rough Riders' rally came to an immediate end, thanks to a scoring drought that elapsed 5:34.
"Any time you hold a team under 40 points, you've done a good job," said Marcini of his team's defensive performance.
"That's been the story of our season," said Dunlap. "Sometimes, I feel like their is a lid on the hoop. We got shots, we just didn't knock them down."
The Rockets scored the next 10 points before Corey Mitchell hit a jumper to get Kent on the board again.
Matusik finished with 16 points, including four threes. Junior Devin Rencher had 13 while Paul Jenkins and Brandon Gency each supplied eight. Watts ended the contest with 13 points; Mitchell tallied nine. Streetsboro lost a 47-42 decision in the junior varsity contest.