TOLONO — Unity took the pole position in the battle for the Okaw Valley Conference title Friday night by beating Macon Meridian 75-63.
Meridian came into Friday's matchup tied with the Rockets atop the OVC standings.
Unity ensured it would hold the top spot alone by going on a 9-0 run in the opening two minutes. The Rockets dictated the pace of play.
"We pushed the ball, and when we pushed the ball they couldn't keep up with our speed. That's the way we love to play," senior point guard Alex Thorson said.
Thorson was the catalyst for Unity's superb offense Friday. He was one of four Rockets who scored in double figures, picking up 12 points. He added four steals.
The most impressive Unity player was Matt Restad. The junior led all scorers with 24 points, including five three-pointers.
"When he gets in the zone and gets locked in on offense he can shoot with the best of them. He did a good job of picking his spots and hitting his shots," Unity coach Bill Ipsen said of Restad.
He went on to praise his team for its defense, which kept the OVC's top scoring team at bay.
"Giving up 18 points in the first quarter is a lot, but I thought we did much better in the second quarter," Ipsen said. "We did a good job throughout the game when we needed stops. They made some runs at us, but we stepped up."
After Unity's opening run, Meridian was never able to mount a significant run. Unity led 28-18 after one quarter and 40-30 at halftime.
The Hawks closed to within five points, 43-38, after the Rockets started slowly in the second half. Unity, however, soon pushed its lead back to 10.
Taylor Black tallied 15 points and Aaron Larson recorded another double-double (19 points, 11 rebounds) in the win.
The victory was Unity's eighth in a row, but the team must win its final two conference games to clinch its second consecutive OVC title.
Ipsen expressed caution at the idea of a repeat.
"We have to take it one at a time. This game was big, but it means nothing if we lose the next two," he said.
Thorson was a bit bolder when asked if he thought the team could win the conference.
"I know we're capable," he said with a wide smile.