MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP – When Jaxson Whitaker gets that special three-point feeling in his gut, there’s really nothing opponents can do but stand and admire.

Or, in Kenowa Hills’ case, pack up the balls and uniforms for the season while Whitaker and the Rockets move on to the next round of districts.

Whitaker, who became Reeths-Puffer’s all-time three-point king a few weeks ago as a junior, continued his amazing shooting on Monday night, pouring in nine 3-pointers and 35 points in the Rockets’ impressive 75-61 win over Kenowa Hills in the opening game of Division 1 districts.

The Rockets, 14-9 on the season, now head to Coopersville on Wednesday to play the host Broncos in the district semifinal round. Coopersville advanced by beating Grand Haven on Monday.

If Whitaker has another game like he had against Kenowa Hills, Coopersville could be in trouble, too.

R-P’s Jaxson Whitaker, who scored 35 points, including 9 three-pointers. Photo/Joe Lane

“He was hitting them in every way – in transition, off screens, on pullups – it was just an incredible shooting performance,” said R-P Coach Nate Aardema.

“It’s kind of like (Golden State Warriors star) Klay Thompson. I think he has the record of like 12 in a game or something like that. They play 48 minutes, we play 32 and Jaxson hit nine. That’s just phenomenal.”

The fun thing about watching Whitaker is the seemingly effortless way he releases the ball, even under tight defensive coverage, and how it seems to find its way accurately to the hoop, almost like a guided missle.

“That was definitely my best shooting game of the year, thanks to my teammates getting the ball to me, getting me open and setting screens,” Whitaker said. “Once a couple went in I knew it was going to be a good night. It was fun. The guys were getting into it and we were hustling the whole game.

“It really felt like open gym out there.”

R-P’s Travis Ambrose dunks while Kenowa Hills defenders watch. Photo/Joe Lane

The Rockets are definitely playing their best basketball at the right time of year, when one loss means the end of the season. They have won seven of their last eight games while showing flashes of offensive brilliance along the way.

Their current hot streak started with a 79-point performance against Wyoming in a game last month, and now includes the 75 points they bagged on Monday night.

Part of the credit goes to the Rockets’ one-two-scoring punch of Whitaker and fellow junior Travis Ambrose, who have been taking turns lighting up the scoreboard lately. Ambrose led R-P with 25 points in each of the two previous games and added 20 in the winning effort on Monday.

But the entire R-P squad has been playing loose and confident basketball in recent weeks. It’s most obvious in the transition game, which the Rockets have been turning into an art form.

Opponents miss shots at their own peril because the Rockets have been pounding the defensive boards for rebounds and racing downcourt for lots of easy buckets.

R-P’s Kyle Schlaff goes for a layup. Photo/Joe Lane

“That’s been a big emphasis for us the latter half of the year – let’s just go out and run and see what we get,” Coach Aardema said. “When Jaxson pushes the pace (as the point guard), the defense is on their heels immediately.

“I love the way we’re playing right now. The best part is that we get to play again. We are getting a really good effort from all the guys. Everybody is pretty tuned in.”

The game started out extremely slow for Reeths-Puffer. The Rockets only converted 3 of 11 shots in the first quarter, turned the ball over four times and trailed 10-6 at the first buzzer.

But a quick huddle between quarters was all the Rockets needed before turning on the offense and taking control of the game.

R-P opened the second quarter with a 16-2 run over the first 3 ½ minutes to take a startling 22-11 lead.  The Rockets outscored the Knights 24-9 in the second and led 30-19 at halftime.

Whitaker led the uprising with four triples in the second quarter while Ambrose added six points.

The offensive fireworks continued in the third quarter with the Rockets outscoring Kenowa Hills 28-17 to take a 58-36 lead into the fourth. Whitaker scored 13 points in the quarter, including three more triples, while Ambrose added seven points and Marvin Moore had five.

Kenowa Hills had a 25-17 edge in the fourth quarter, when R-P started giving reserve players some court time.

Now the Rockets have a day to get ready for Coopersville, a 15-8 squad that’s won 8 of its last 10 games, including a 47-44 shocker over Grand Haven on Monday.

“We’re just enjoying the time together, and we’re going to try to keep getting better,” Aardema said. “Coopersville can really guard you. They only give up like 42 points per game and play a unique zone defense. I love the challenge of getting ready for them.”