Rochester goes zone, recovers from FT woes, beats Heritage in OT
Leasure’s 28, Reinartz’s 16 offset Saylor’s heroics for Pats
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
After playing no halfcourt zone defense for three weeks, the Rochester boys basketball team brought back the “Larkin zone” against Heritage at the RHS gym.
That defense and the ability to overcome nine missed free throws in the fourth quarter helped lead to a 66-55 overtime win and a sweep of a three-game homestand in a four-day span.
Paul Leasure led Rochester (9-8) with 28 points, and Tanner Reinartz hit five 3-pointers and added 16.
Tarick McGlothin scored four of his nine points in the overtime.
Luke Saylor hit six 3-pointers and led Heritage with 31 points. Saylor scored in a variety of ways, including a Larry Bird-style fadeaway, a 3-pointer from Steph Curry range and a pullup 23-footer for 3 that tied the game with 4.2 seconds left in regulation.
That turned out to be Heritage’s final points. The Patriots dropped their third straight game to fall to 4-14.
Rochester went 7 for 16 from the foul line in the fourth quarter but 4 for 4 in the overtime. Rochester made more free throws (14) than Heritage attempted (10).
Leasure drove in the lane and dumped down to Luke Hunting for the go-ahead layup on the first possession of overtime to give Rochester a 57-55 lead.
With 3:31 left in overtime, Saylor was forced to leave due to leg cramps.
McGlothin missed a 3, but the Zebras benefited due to some apparent miscommunication between Heritage guards Kobe Meyer and Nyles Knapke. Meyer had the ball on the right wing and thought Knapke was staying back out near the top of the key. Instead, Knapke cut towards the baseline, and Meyer’s pass rolled harmlessly back into the backcourt, where McGlothin swiped it and went in for an uncontested layup.
When Reinartz hit a left-corner 3-pointer off a McGlothin assist, the lead was up to seven, and Leasure and McGlothin closed the game with two free throws each in the final 46.5 seconds.
The team has picked up its work ethic since a 30-point loss to Caston on Jan. 18, according to Leasure. They have gone 5-1 since.
“A lot of hard practices,” Leasure said when asked how the team has turned it around. “I’m not going to lie to you. A lot of very hard practices. They were grueling, and I think everybody can agree with me that’s probably not our favorite parts of the day, but we got through it, and that’s why where we are now.”
Rochester led 47-38 with 5:12 left after a Reinartz free throw, but Meyer and Knapke hit treys to cut the lead to 47-44.
They led 54-50 with 57.8 seconds left on a Brock Bowers free throw.
Saylor hit a 19-footer from the right baseline to cut the margin to two.
Then came the free throw problems. Leasure missed two with 37.2 seconds left, but the Zebras got the offensive rebound. But McGlothin then missed two with 30.5 seconds left.
Austin Buuck missed a 3-pointer that would have given Heritage the lead, and Leroy Lepper missed a putback try.
Knapke fouled Leasure with 13.7 seconds left. Leasure split a pair from the line, and that kept in a one-possession game for Saylor, already beginning to be hobbled by his leg cramps, to tie the game.
Leasure missed an off-balance runner at the buzzer of regulation.
“You just have to have short memory loss and move on and be ready to play that overtime period, and we did a great job finishing that out,” Leasure said.
Rochester coach Rob Malchow approved of his team’s response in the overtime.
“In between the fourth quarter and overtime, I just said, ‘You know, you can pout, you can blame somebody. Know why you’re in this situation, take ownership, and let’s find a way to win. And they all nodded, and they came out and they went right at them.”
Saylor scored 19 points in the first half, including five as part of an 11-0 run in the second quarter as Heritage built a 29-18 lead.
But the Zebras answered with a 16-2 run covering the second and third quarters to take a 34-31 lead.
Reinartz hit a pair of treys during the run, and McGlothin, who was held scoreless in the first half, had a 3-pointer ands a deuce within the first 2:10 of the half.
A Leasure 3-pointer and a pullup 15-footer made it 34-31.
Defensively, Rochester went from a man-to-man to what Malchow calls a “Larkin zone,” named after the defense they played in a win over Winamac in the 2020 sectional semifinals. In that game, Rochester held Winamac’s Will Larkin, a 24-point-per-game scorer that season, to 13 points by playing a 2-3 zone while emphasizing communication and tagging the opposing team’s main scoring threat.
This time, the main threat was Saylor, and he scored only two points in the third quarter.
“When you’re going man-to-man, if you don’t have someone who can just have the length – I think we had the quickness but we didn’t have the length – to stay with him and to challenge him as a shooter,” Malchow said of defending Saylor. “In the zone, it allows us to go out in their zone area … and meet him all the way out there and know that there are three guys waiting on you. And zones tend to make high school kids … struggle against it sometimes, especially when you don’t have time to prepare. … For the guys to make that adjustment at halftime, that’s something I’ve been impressed with these guys about.”
Another Leasure pullup led to 3-point play and a 40-35 lead with 1:08 left in the third quarter.
Another Reinartz trey and another Leasure 3-point play off the break made it 46-38 in the fourth quarter.
Rochester also won the JV game 45-43. Owen Prater scored 16 points, Bryce Baugher had 14, Dylan Hook had six, Hunter Campbell had six, Drew Bowers had two, and Colton Ferverda had one.
Rochester 66, Heritage 55 (OT)
HERITAGE (55) (4-14)
Nyles Knapke 1 0-0 3, Kobe Meyer 2 1-2 7, Luke Saylor 11 3-4 31, Dalton Wasson 1 0-2 3, Howard Kaiser 0 0-0 0, Tanner Whitman 1 1-2 3, Dylan Hale 0 0-0 0, Austin Buuck 0 0-0 0, Leroy Lepper 4 0-0 8
TEAM: 20 5-10 55
ROCHESTER (66) (9-8)
Tarick McGlothin 3 2-4 9, Paul Leasure 8 10-14 28, Tanner Reinartz 5 1-2 16, Evan Elliott 0 0-0 0, Luke Hunting 2 0-1 4, Brock Bowers 2 1-2 7, Owen Prater 0 0-0 0, Aaron Huffman 0 0-0 0, Riobert Bozzo 0 0-0 0, Ethan Medina 0 0-0 0, Xavier Vance 1 0-0 2
TEAM: 21 14-23 66
Three-point field goals:
Heritage 10 (Saylor 6, Meyer 2, Wasson, Knapke),
Rochester 10 (Reinartz 5, Bowers 2, Leasure 2, McGlothin)
Total fouls: Heritage 22, Rochester 10
Turnovers: Heritage 15, Rochester 15
Score by quarters
Heritage 14 15 7 19 0 – 55
Rochester 12 9 19 15 11 – 66
JV: Rochester 45, Heritage 43
Rochester junior guard Tarick McGlothin dribbles upcourt during the Zebras’ 66-55 overtime win over Heritage Saturday. McGlothin scored all nine of his points in the second half and overtime as Rochester rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit. (photo provided by Paula Beehler)