ROCHELLE — Ball pressure proved difficult for the Rochelle varsity boys basketball team to handle during Tuesday evening’s nonconference game against Dixon.
The Dukes forced multiple turnovers in the Rochelle backcourt throughout the game, utilizing their pressure on defense to score several easy baskets and build an early lead. Behind 26 points from standout player Beau Bailey, Dixon cruised over Rochelle 65-52 and dropped the Hubs to 3-4 overall.
“We knew Dixon would go to the ball press but I think our kids panicked,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “We were throwing the ball over the top too much and their hands were always up. We talked about looking in different directions and using ball fakes. We had a solid press-breaker but I don’t think we ran it that well tonight.”
Tuesday’s game was a rematch of last season’s regional semifinal game at Stillman Valley High School, where Bailey’s buzzer-beating shot lifted Dixon over Rochelle in the final seconds. Bailey once again drove the Dukes on offense Tuesday, scoring 14 points in the first half and helping Dixon lead 16-10 after the first quarter.
Rochelle’s offensive woes continued after the Hubs struggled for 47 points in a loss against Sterling on Friday. Senior Isaac Green and sophomore Garrett Burdin each knocked down 3-pointers in the first half, but shots were tough to find overall. Senior Johnny Beck led Rochelle with 11 points after two quarters, with the Hubs trailing 34-26.
“It’s more about us not making the extra pass,” Thompson said. “It’s something we’ve preached with this team since the beginning of the year. We need to give up good shots for great shots but we’re not doing that right now. We’re taking quick shots and I think the kids need to move the ball better and they need to sacrifice more for the team.”
Turnovers continued hurting the Hubs in the third quarter. Rallying behind tough defenders Derian and Aaron Duncan, Dixon frequently trapped Rochelle players in the backcourt and intercepted cross-court passes for layups. Bailey scored as many points (12) as the Hubs did in the third quarter, and the Dukes gained a 52-38 advantage after three quarters.
Beck finished with a team-high 19 points for the Hubs, but Thompson said after the game that he wished his playmaking forward had more touches throughout the night.
“I think Johnny had a good matchup tonight but we didn’t feed him nearly enough,” Thompson said. “There were times where we could’ve gotten him touches but we would turn the ball over before we could get him the ball. Johnny was looking pretty good, but when we started turning the ball over, we weren’t getting him touches.”
Junior Austin Brown had nine points for Rochelle, while both Burdin and junior Ben Hickey added five points. Juniors Landan Martin and Seth Gould each recorded four points, with Green and senior Mason DeLille each making one 3-pointer for three Hub points.