ROCHELLE — Senior guard Landan Martin didn’t appreciate how the Rock Falls defense was sagging off him when the Rochelle Hubs took the floor for their nonconference basketball contest against the Rockets on Tuesday.
Rock Falls opened the game in man-to-man defense instead of the team’s traditional 1-3-1 zone, and Martin took advantage by scoring 10 of his 16 points in the first quarter. The senior’s strong start helped Rochelle take down the Rockets 59-49 and improve to 12-10 overall. The Hubs have won eight of their last nine games.
“I felt that they didn’t honor my ability to shoot,” Martin said. “I was able to get into a rhythm… We thought they’d come out in their 1-3-1 like they did last year, but they came out in man-to-man… I think we can win a lot of games down the stretch.”
The Hubs established their perimeter shooting right away, converting four 3-pointers in the opening quarter to offset the damage Rock Falls forward Jeriah George did down low. George scored 10 of his 13 points in the first half, with the bulk of those points coming on offensive rebounds and putbacks. Rochelle entered the second quarter with a narrow 16-15 lead.
“We’ve been chewed out about our offensive rebounding and how we let other teams get so many rebounds,” Martin said. “Coach [Tim] Thompson let us know about it at halftime and we were able to kick into high gear and stop [George] from getting on the boards.”
Rock Falls tied the game 25-25 before Rochelle closed the second quarter on an 8-0 run capped off by senior Seth Gould’s layup on an assist from fellow senior Austin Brown. Leading 33-25, Garrett Burdin took the torch and caught fire from 3-point range, sinking three straight triples and scoring Rochelle’s first nine points of the quarter. The junior guard’s shooting outburst allowed the Hubs to stay ahead of the Rockets 44-37 entering the fourth quarter.
“It was a huge momentum shift for us,” Burdin said. “They weren’t able to make a big run and get back in the game… We were able to penetrate their defense and get the ball in the middle so we could kick the ball out wide. My teammates were creating shots for me in the first half, and I was able to create for myself in the second half. I had the hot hand and I let them fly.”
Burdin, who finished with 23 points in the game, added two more 3-pointers in the fourth quarter including one off the high glass that fell through the hoop for his team-high seventh triple of the night. Rochelle scored the first five points of the quarter on a dribble-drive layup and a long-range 3-pointer from Brown, who totaled eight points on Tuesday. The Hubs led 59-45 before both teams made five-man substitutions during the final minutes.