WOODSTOCK – Woodstock center Damian Stoneking eagerly had awaited facing Richmond-Burton freshman Joey St. Pierre, with whom he worked out over the summer.
It would have been a matchup of two of the area’s tallest and best post players, but it never materialized. St. Pierre suffered a strained calf muscle recently and missed Saturday night’s game, which was costly for the Rockets.
Without the 6-foot-8 center, Woodstock exploited R-B inside with Stoneking scoring a game-high 24 points as the Blue Streaks picked up a 56-53 nonconference boys basketball victory at James M. Shipley Memorial Gymnasium.
Stoneking, who is 6-7, and St. Pierre both trained at Steve Preston’s Hard 2 Guard in Spring Grove in the offseason.
“I was really looking forward to playing against him,” Stoneking said. “We do post work together. They had a lot of heart inside; they played well against me.”
But between Stoneking, 6-7 sophomore Nick Kubiak and 6-5 Mason Sutter, the Blue Streaks (2-6) had too much size for R-B (4-3). The Streaks owned a huge rebounding advantage (44-21) and fed Stoneking throughout the game. The senior hit seven of his last eight field goals, including a pair of third-quarter dunks.
“We didn’t know [St. Pierre] was out until we came out to warm up,” Streaks coach Alex Baker said. “We spread [the offense] out more, with four out and Damian in the post to get him more room to work. We felt at halftime we could get him more touches, so that was a point of emphasis.”
Stoneking scored 14 of his total in the second half. Sutter finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Kubiak had six points and 10 rebounds.
R-B was down 17 at one point in the third quarter, but battled back with six 3-pointers in the second half. Reserve Nick Hogan came in and hit three 3s. Forward Sam Kaufman led R-B with 20 points and hit nine in the fourth quarter.
“We always play hard, but we played harder in the third and fourth quarters than we did in the first half,” Kaufman said. “We have to come out with more intensity. Once we do that, we’ll be able to hit shots and get to the rim more.”
The Rockets also were without starting guard Brian Wells, who missed the game for personal reasons. That meant 6-1 forward Grant Miller and freshman guard Blaine Bayer made their first varsity starts.
“A lot of things we do are keyed through Joe (St. Pierre),” R-B coach Brandon Creason said. “It was a lot to ask for Grant and Blaine. And we couldn’t hit a shot. We had some guys who usually don’t get a lot of minutes who came in and did some good things. Nick Hogan did a great job and hit some big shots.”
R-B forced six Woodstock turnovers in the fourth quarter and hacked into the lead. The Rockets trailed 54-45 after Mike Kaska’s 3 with 1:37 remaining and kept chipping away. Kaufman scored on a court-length drive for a layup with two seconds to go for the final margin, which was the closest R-B had been since early in the game.