MARENGO – A certain Richmond-Burton freshman has drawn a great deal of attention for his prowess on the basketball court and ability to affect games.
But Saturday night, it was not 6-foot-8 Joey St. Pierre making most of the noise, it was his freshman classmate Blaine Bayer, a foot shorter, lightning quick and sure to be a longtime headache for Rockets’ opponents.
Bayer’s outside shots had not been falling regularly, although it was difficult to tell the way he played against Marengo. Bayer hit his first five shots, four of which were 3-pointers, to spark R-B on a pivotal run in its 70-57 Big Northern Conference East Division boys basketball victory at Homer “Bill” Barry Gymnasium.
“He beat me in P-I-G the other day, and I told him it was killing me to lose to someone who’s made one 3 this year,” R-B coach Brandon Creason said. “He shoots every day after practice, he just hasn’t hit his shots. It was good to see him get some success. He’s going to get better and better, but he was pretty good tonight.”
Bayer actually had three 3s coming into the game and more than doubled that total by early in the second half. He hit a pair of 3s in the first quarter, then picked up a loose ball at the top of the key and buried another at the halftime buzzer for a 29-24 lead.
“I got a lucky bounce and was in the right spot at the right time,” Bayer said. “I just got it and shot it.”
Bayer hit 5 of 7 from the field and 5 of 6 free throws for his season-high 19 points.
“I always work on my shooting, I just need to get more confident,” Bayer said. “My teammates did a great job getting me the ball and I tried to knock them down.”
Bayer opened the second half by blowing by Marengo’s defense for a layup, then hitting his last 3 of the game.
“So far in the season he’s been a ballhandler for us,” Rockets forward Danny Rygiel said. “That he made a lot of buckets tonight was really helpful. That was a huge uplift going into halftime.”
R-B (13-5 overall, 4-1 BNC East) trailed Marengo, 24-23, late in the first half, but went on a 22-5 run for a 45-29 lead with 2:55 remaining in the third quarter.
Marengo (11-9, 2-3) jumped out quickly with guard Zach Knobloch scoring its first 10 points with a pair of 3s and two other mid-range jumpers. Knobloch, who scored one point in Friday’s 54-45 win at Harvard, finished with six 3s and a game-high 26 points.
“He’s been really consistent, other than last night,” Indians coach Will Benson said. “He’s been as consistent of a player as we’ve had in terms of effort and shooting. We’re doing some good things, we just weren’t as consistent at the defensive end.”
Sam Kaufman scored 18 points, Brian Wells added 12 and St. Pierre had nine for the Rockets, who shot 47.6 percent (20 for 42) from the field and 73.3 percent (22 for 30) from the line.
Creason felt R-B’s 1-2-2 pressure, which the Rockets often used at full- or three-quarter-court, paid dividends later in the game.
“The theory of our ball press is it’s going to be harder to do things in the fourth quarter,” Creason said. “We’re going to keep it on you and try to wear you down.”
Adam Rogutich added nine points for Marengo.