By ERIC CLUTTER | CORRESPONDENT
The Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders faced a tall task as they took on Uniontown Lake on Tuesday night.
Last Friday night, the Blue Streaks clinched the always-competitive Federal League. Two days later, the team earned the No. 1 seed at this year's Alliance Division I Sectional\District tournament -- the same one Roosevelt will participate in as a 12th seed.
These two teams have played each other for the last decade, and for Roosevelt head coach Ben Dunlap, who has seen all of the encounters, nothing changes about the consistency of the Blue Streaks.
"Every year we play these guys, they are better and better," he said. "They play so hard from the opening tip. They are so efficient on offense and are something to watch."
In this year's contest, Lake scored 56-of-59 points from well within the 3-point line en route to a 59-42 non-league decision over the Riders.
Mitchell Spotleson was pretty much spot-on for the now 18-3 Blue Streaks, scoring his 22 points all from close proximity to the hoop. Teammate Chaese Vaudrin supplied 12 more to the Lake cause.
"I was happy with our defense for the whole night," said Dunlap, "but they just flat turned mistakes into layups."
Roosevelt was careless with the ball and turned it over 24 times versus only eight assists.
Despite 11 miscues, the Rough Riders (5-14) were within two points of Lake with 2:36 to play in the first half. This was due to the fact that after putting up 16 points in the opening eight minutes, the Blue Streaks were held scoreless for the first 5:24 of the second stanza. Unfortunately for Roosevelt, the Riders was only able to knock four points off the deficit, but still trailed by only 16-14,
Two Spotleson layups helped key a 7-0 run that increased the margin to 23-14. Joe Watts' bucket temporarily halted the Lake momentum before Alex Belinsky's two free throws and a Caleb Peach basket extended the gap to 10 points.
A Corey Mitchell steal and buzzer-beating layup reduced the Roosevelt deficit to eight points at the half.
A strong start to the second half allowed the Blue Streaks to run out to a 37-22 advantage with 2:34 to go in the third quarter and the hosts enjoyed a double-digit cushion the remainder of the night.
"They are really good at not taking that one extra dribble before (defensive) help comes," said Dunlap. "They are a phenomenal-shooting team."
Watts finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. He also was the only Roosevelt player to go to the foul line, making 4-of-6 shots. Mitchell added 10, while Myles Wright had eight. Watts and Mitchell combined to shoot 11-of-20 from the field, but Roosevelt was unable to put up a high volume of shots.
"Joe is special; he brings it every night," said Dunlap.
Roosevelt will travel to Crestwood on Friday night for its final road game of the season. The Rough Riders will then come home to host Hudson next Tuesday and Norton a week from this Friday.
And despite now having dropped 12-of-14 games, Dunlap likes how his team continues to work hard and compete.
"We'll surprise somebody at some point," said the first-year coach. "When we put 32 minutes together, we'll shake somebody."