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Castle Rock want to be a playoff team, but are learning how stiff Trico 1A League competition is this year.

The Rockets fell victim to a hot-shooting King’s Way Christian team 80-33 in boys’ basketball action at LeBaron Court on Thursday. The Knights hit 11 3-pointers.

“This is our third straight game scoring under 40 points,” first-year Castle Rock coach Hayden Tilton said. “They took it to us in the halfcourt, and we just aren’t handling pressure well. Too many turnovers, and we’re just hurting ourselves consistently.”

King’s Way led 27-8 after the first quarter, and though Castle Rock clawed back, it entered the locker room with a 41-14 deficit.

King’s Way jumped passing lanes over and over during the first half, converting those forced turnovers into the majority of its scoring output and seemed infallible on shots from the perimeter.

Castle Rock couldn’t find an offensive rhythm as a result and struggled to show offensive aggressiveness.

“We work really hard on pressure defense. We work really hard on taking care of the ball, and unfortunately it wasn’t displayed here tonight,” Tilton said. “Knowing the level of competition in the league, we think this is a good team. But we’re going down to La Center in two nights — the No. 2 team in the state. So (we’re trying to) get an understanding for what the league is going to look like. Getting an understanding of how we can recover and how we can compete for a playoff spot.”

The Rockets 5-6 overall record following their first league game of the season is second-worst in the Trico 1A, better than only White Salmon. They might not be as far away from the stated goal of playoff contention as those numbers suggest, though, and Tilton is hoping that a few tweaks here and there can compound into meaningful dividends. One of those factors showed up Thursday.

“What was working for us tonight? Coleman Guerrero was working for us tonight,” Tilton said. “Talk about the epitome of a hustle guy. Fighting tooth and nail, he set the tone for — hopefully in the future — the way we should play defense. Unfortunately it wasn’t too contagious. But I tip the cap to him because he was phenomenal tonight.”

Guerrero led the team with 10 points, 12 rebounds and four steals, while Connor Edwards and Landon Gardner scored eight points apiece.

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Sports Reporter

Jason is a journeyman sports reporter who has covered the Golden State Warriors, Oakland A's, along with a heavy emphasis on the Oakland Raiders. He comes to Cowlitz County from Oakland, Calif. and is a loving father.

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