SYCAMORE — The season couldn’t have started any better for the Rochelle boys basketball team, as the Hubs dominated on both ends of the floor to earn a decisive victory against Belvidere in the opening round of the Strombom Thanksgiving Tournament on Tuesday.
Senior guard Landan Martin shined with a game-high 27 points, and the Hubs blew the Bucs out in the second half to win 80-44 and start the season 1-0 overall. Three players finished in double figures for Rochelle including senior Seth Gould and junior Garrett Burdin, who each totaled 16 points in the victory. Belvidere went 0-for-5 from 3-point range in the game.
“I thought we came out and played really solid defense,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “We got our hands on a lot of balls and scored easy layups… Landan was fantastic and he really scored a lot in the lane. When he can get into the lane, he finishes well. I thought Seth was the player who got us going by flying around the court, making layups and tapping balls out for us.”
Defense led to offense for the Hubs, who forced 24 turnovers and outscored Belvidere 24-8 in transition points as a result. Belvidere struggled to find offense from anybody not named Zarius Dent, who scored over 50 percent of the team’s points with 23. Rochelle led 21-6 after the first quarter and the Hubs extended their advantage to 38-18 at halftime.
“We came out after halftime and tried to win each quarter from there,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t like we shot the ball great but our defense was there and we made a lot of layups.”
Senior Austin Brown turned in an all-around performance with six points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals. Rochelle cruised over Belvidere in the second half, outpacing the Bucs 52-26 along the way. Martin finished with a team-high six steals for the Hubs in the win.
Rochelle’s victory over Belvidere set up the team’s second-round matchup against defending tournament champion Dundee-Crown. The Chargers possessed more size than the Hubs, and despite getting into foul trouble early in the game, Dundee-Crown held off a late push from Rochelle to beat the Hubs 62-53 and drop the purple and white to 1-1 overall.
“We saw a really solid 1-3-1 defense and even when we have zone offenses in the game, it’s tough to mimic that kind of defense,” Thompson said. “I felt that we didn’t rotate the ball as cleanly as I would have liked to see and we struggled from the perimeter. We were forcing 22-footers and 24-footers when we should have been taking 19-footers.”
Dundee-Crown committed eight fouls in the first quarter to put Rochelle in the bonus, and the Hubs earned the double bonus well before the halftime buzzer expired. But the Chargers gobbled up rebounds on both ends, scoring on second-chance opportunities and limiting Rochelle to one-and-out offensive possessions. Dundee-Crown led 14-9 after the first quarter and the defending champions took a 26-17 lead into the locker room.
Garrett Burdin started the second half strong for Rochelle, running his scoring total up to 15 points and helping keep the Hubs alive trailing 41-31 after three quarters. A flurry of forced turnovers in the fourth quarter led to multiple layups for the Hubs, who came within three points of Dundee-Crown at 45-42. But the Chargers held their own, closing the game by outscoring Rochelle 17-11 and making all but one of their free throws down the stretch.
“They got back in transition and they slowed us down with their length,” Thompson said. “Our kids played it out until the end and they weren’t going to quit… We scrambled for balls and Garrett made some shots for us.”