ZANESVILLE — Improved chemistry and consistency have Rosecrans anticipating a strong campaign.
Those were among the elements on display in the season opener, as the host Bishops cruised past Grove City Christian 65-47 in Mid-State League Cardinal Division play on Tuesday at Rogge Gymnasium.
Grady Labishak poured in a team-high 24 points to go with four assists, Brendan Bernath knocked down six 3s on his way to a career-best 23 and dished out a team-best six assists and Weston Hartman added 13 points and eight rebounds in a balanced effort for the winners.
Bernath, whose career high was 11 points, felt a strong offseason and the play of Labishak have given the Bishops a sense of optimism.
“We’ve improved so much from last season, and this is a great tone setter,” Bernath said. “We had some growing pains last season, but during the summer and the first couple weeks of practice, we’re playing much better as a team.
“Grady is so quick and twitchy. He sees everything so well,” he added. “He knows where each of us will be, and he opens up so many opportunities for us.”
Seeing that cohesiveness gave Rosecrans coach Todd Rock a sense of pride. Last season, the Eagles won both meetings by a combined 31 points so this victory showed the Bishops’ growth.
“They have everyone back so I’m proud of how our kids played,” Rock said. “Brendan deserves a lot of credit for stepping up and hitting shots, and Weston has improved mentally and handled their pressure well. Our young guys must keep working and understand what’s expected when we call their number.”
The Bishops’ early shooting touch allowed them to get comfortable. Bernath opened the scoring with his first 3, while James Goggin and Hartman added triples in the opening quarter for a 12-6 advantage.
Rosecrans, which made 7 of 17 behind the arc in the first half, kept the offense in high gear in the second quarter. Labishak hit a 3 after an offensive rebound then Bernath found a cutting Hartman, who scored and completed the three-point play for an 18-10 lead.
The Eagles had three straight empty possessions, which allowed the Bishops to extend their advantage. Bernath connected with Hartman again, while Bernath and Labishak hit back-to-back 3s for a 26-13 edge.
Grove City Christian followed with a 6-0 spurt, but Labishak drove to the hoop for a score and Bernath closed the first half with a 3, as Rosecrans led 31-19 at the half.
A quick 7-0 run to open the third put the Bishops at ease. Bernath started the third like he ended the second with a 3 and Labishak added four straight for a 38-19 cushion.
After the Eagles scored five straight, Bernath converted a three-point play to end that surge, and Labishak scored the final six of the quarter for a 49-28 lead entering the fourth.
Rosecrans, which made 24 of 43 field goals and 10 of 23 3s, led by as many as 25 before emptying the bench late in the fourth quarter.
Xander Daniels was strong in the post, grabbing 13 rebounds and Goggin added six boards to help the Bishops own a 33-19 edge on the glass. Rosecrans had 11 turnovers, but only six were by the starters.
Grove City Christian, which committed only seven turnovers, struggled to find its shooting. The Eagles were 18 of 47 from the field and 6 of 19 behind the arc with five 3s coming in the fourth.
Rosecrans will host a varsity doubleheader on Thursday. The junior varsity boys take on Liberty Christian at 5 p.m. followed by the girls around 6 and the boys around 7:30.
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