WELLSTON - The anticipated rivalry matchup at Wellston High School between the Rockets and the Jackson Ironmen was a surprisingly lopsided affair on Tuesday night.
The outcome was in Jackson's favor from the start, as the Ironmen led 13-0 after the first quarter, and coasted to a 50-24 non-league victory.
Wellston (5-5) struggled to make shots the entire game.
The Rockets, who had 22 turnovers overall, shot 29.4 percent (10 of 34) from the floor and were held to their lowest point total of the season.
"It was very disappointing," said Wellston head coach Joe Briggs. "We were not ready to play the whole game. It was evident in the first half. Credit to Jackson. They outplayed us in every phase of the game in my opinion.
"We were ready to play. We just went through the motions for the bulk of the game on both ends of the court. I didn't think we were very good on either end tonight."
Wellston (5-5) has now lost two of three, with the other setback coming on the road at Wheelersburg by 39 points on Dec. 29.
Jackson head coach Max Morrow credited his team for playing great defense, which was strong from the start. The Ironmen forced eight first-half turnovers and held the Rockets to 4 of 19 (21 percent) shooting from the field.
"We challenged our kids in practice to get back to playing great defense," said Morrow. "Defense is going to take us much further and that's what we hang our hat on. The guys really committed to that tonight. We had a good defensive plan and they executed it well. I was very pleased with our defensive effort."
Payton Speakman had a steal and layup to put the first points on the board for Jackson. Three consecutive baskets by Brice Graham made it 8-0 and then, a three-pointer by Carson Spohn extended the Ironmen's run to 11-0 to start the game.
Treylan Davis scored with 43.5 seconds left in the first quarter, as Jackson opened a 13-0 lead.
Wellston, which was held scoreless in the first quarter, missed all nine of its shot attempts. The Rockets didn't score until 7:11 left in the second quarter when DeCota McKenzie ended the nearly nine-minute drought with a three-pointer.
The Ironmen (7-4) responded with a 14-7 run the rest of the way, as Spohn capped the run with a layup basket with two seconds remaining and Jackson led 27-9 at halftime.
"They pressured the ball pretty well, which led to our guards having tunnel vision," Briggs said. "We had several opportunities to attack the way they were playing the ball and we just didn't do it. I thought they did a good job of speeding us up and taking us out of what we were trying to do.
"They beat us to spots. Jackson was ready to play. They came in here to win and we didn't give them a lot of resistance. We didn't even compete tonight. I am very frustrated with our effort."
The Rockets found holes in the Ironmen's defense early in the third quarter, as Matt Simpson had a pair of putback baskets and a three-pointer by Jordan Lucas cut the score to 29-16 with 4:10 remaining.
Then a layup and three-pointer by Donaldson were followed by another three-pointer by Speakman to push Jackson's advantage to 22 points (39-17) at the end of the third.
Both coaches pulled their starters off the floor in the fourth quarter, and a bucket by Matt Humphreys capped the scoring in the final eight-minutes for the Ironmen to give them the 26-point victory.
Speakman led the Ironmen, who shot 42.8 percent (21 of 49) and made six three-pointers, with a game-high 12 points. Spohn finished with 10 points, while Donaldson had nine points, eight rebounds, and four blocks. Graham added eight points for Jackson, while Caleb Wallis had three points and five assists.
In addition, Humphreys, Caden Donaldson, T.J. Burd and Davis each finished with two points.
Matt Simpson was the only player to score in double figures for Wellston, as he finished with 10 points to go along with nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and a block. McKenzie and Levi Bush each finished with four points, while Nick Heil and Jordan Lucas had three points apiece.
Up next, Wellston will play at River Valley in a Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division contest on Friday, while Jackson will play at Greenfield-McClain in a Frontier Athletic Conference matchup.