NEW HAVEN — There was under 10 seconds left, and New Haven's JaQuan Kincaid sailed an inbounds pass down the floor, and no Rocket was there to collect it.
Warren Mott's Dorian Chaney grabbed the loose ball, drove to the hoop and drew a trip to the foul line. Then the senior trimmed the Marauders' deficit to three points.
Tyree France made a pair of free throws with under one second left, and New Haven (5-2) managed to run out the rest of the clock, but its home crowd wasn't too pleased with how the Rockets snuck away with a close 59-54 win.
They led by as many as 19 points in the second half and entered the fourth quarter leading by 16.
A collapse like that isn't how you'd want to open Macomb Area Conference-White play either, but New Haven coach Tedaro France was excited to use that tight finish as a teaching moment. The Rockets have only two starters with significant experience on the roster. The rest of the players are relatively new to the lineup.
That's why France kept his players in the locker room for an extended skull session after the game. He wanted to teach them exactly how not to fumble a big lead late.
"Those are things you've got to learn — time management, clock management," coach France said. "You've got to know the situation. ... I think it's OK to make mistakes as long as we learn from them. I don't care if we make 10 mistakes as long as we don't make the same one twice. We want to play in these types of games so we can learn how to finish."
Brent Wiles totaled 22 points and 17 rebounds, while France and Trevon Jeffery each scored 10 points apiece.
After a back-and-forth affair early in the first quarter, the Rockets couldn't have looked much better while they put together that 19-point lead.
Late in the first, France sank a 3-pointer, and then Michael Williams Jr. knocked down back-to-back 3s in the corner to give New Haven a 16-11 advantage entering the second quarter.
Jeffery and Wiles accounted for all 13 of New Haven's points in the second, ensuring the Rockets a 29-17 halftime lead.
Wiles scored nine straight points in the third, including a thunderous one-handed dunk on a breakaway, to push the Rockets' lead to 19. Brandon Lisco sank a trio of free throws to ensure they'd carry a 16-point advantage into the final eight minutes.
But that's when the collapse started for the Rockets, who want to continue learning from their mistakes as the season goes on. They visit Romeo for another division game on Tuesday.
"We can practice, we can watch film," coach France said. "But with our young team, the more games they play, the more experience they get. You've got to go through it in order to get better. You've got to learn how to finish. The way you learn that is by playing in these types of games."