SALADO — Against an attacking Lampasas zone Tuesday, Preston Rosebrock not only found himself in the weak spot of the zone, he was able to exploit it — over and over and over again.
Rosebrock came off the bench and exploded for a team-high 18 points against the Badgers, helping No. 24 Salado overcome a sluggish start and pull away late in a 64-44 victory at Salado Gymnasium.
“It feels great,” Rosebrock said, describing the rhythm he was in, “on top of the world.”
With Lampasas employing a number of different zone defenses, Salado (3-1) punished the Badgers (1-3) in transition and from 3-point range with Rosebrock leading the way.
Rosebrock shot 70 percent for the game, including going 4 of 5 from downtown, keying runs in the second and fourth quarters.
“He was big for us,” Eagle coach Kenny Mann said. “He really stretched that lead out, and you could see that affected them quite a bit and they started trying to make up for it and then (we) just kind of rolled after that.”
Both teams were slow out of the gates, remaining deadlocked at 2 before Kase Spears drained a 3-pointer with 3:19 remaining in the first quarter.
That was the start of a 7-1 run that helped Salado build a 13-9 advantage by the end of the first.
Lampasas senior Gary Spencer cut that lead to two with a layup to start the second before Salado went on a 7-2 run that ended with Dane Hankamer scoring on a transition layup for a 20-13 lead at the 4:48 mark.
Salado went into the half up 31-20 with all of its field goals coming on layups, most of which were in transition, and 3-pointers, many of which came from the left corner.
Lampasas, meanwhile, suffered a huge blow at halftime when second-leading scorer Shonderius Howard -- who combined with Gary Spencer to score 16 of the Badgers’ 20 first-half points -- was sidelined with knee tendinitis.
Yet the Badgers scored the first five points of the second half after switching from zone to man to man defense.
“(Lampasas coach Rob Shivers) does that quite a bit,” Mann said. “He’s really good at coming into a zone, press and then switching into a sagging zone and then a man.”
But Salado was able to push the advantage back to double digits by the end of the third, then busted the game open on eight straight points from Rosebrock, who drilled consecutive 3-pointers then had a steal and a layup to put the Eagles up 52-35 with 5:42 to play in the game.
“Tonight, I just had my game on. I was really focused,” Rosebrock said. “I got focused pregame, my team came out focused as well, we moved the ball around and we played good team ball and solid defense.”
Hankamer added 17 points for the Eagles while Spears dished out nine assists.
Spencer finished with a game-high 21 points to lead Lampasas, who is still trying to overcome its youth early in the season.
“After it was 36-28 they, of course, made their run, kind of pushed it out,” Shivers said. “We just have a lot of inexperienced guys, and Shonderius got hurt, of course, at halftime and we were just kind of looking for somebody to score.”
For Salado, it was an encouraging win after Rosebrock was able to help the Eagles solve the myriad of defenses that slowed them down earlier in the game.
“We were able to adjust quickly on defense and offense,” Rosebrock said. “No matter what they throw at us we’re going to be ready for what they’ve got.”