ROCHELLE — A back-and-forth battle broke loose Tuesday evening as the Rochelle Hub varsity basketball team looked to snap a four-game losing streak with a nonconference victory against Rock Falls. In a contest that featured multiple second-half lead changes, the purple and white needed all the points they could score in a game that came down to the final buzzer.
The Rockets refused to back down during the final seconds of regulation, with guard Aydan Goff nailing two consecutive 3-pointers to bring Rock Falls within two points as the clock ticked down under 10 seconds. With both teams in the double bonus, sophomore Carson Lewis split a pair of free throws after being fouled on the inbounds pass, putting Rochelle ahead by three points.
Rock Falls pushed the ball down the floor, but a last-second 3-point attempt from the Rockets deflected off the front of the rim as the Hubs held on for a hard-earned 84-81 victory. Five Rochelle athletes finished in double figures including Lewis, who made a team-best three triples and totaled 12 points. Senior Raul Aguirre led the Hubs (7-14, 2-8 Interstate 8) with 19 points.
“We’ve lost a few games where we had either a 10-point lead or a 20-point lead, so to finish this game tonight feels really good,” Lewis said. “We play a lot better with tempo and since we were both pushing the ball, we were able to score a lot of points. We had a film session yesterday where we talked about why we’ve been losing these leads and what we can do better. This win gives us a lot of confidence and we think that we can make a run over our next few games.”
Rochelle commanded the lead early in the game, surging ahead 18-11 before a fast-paced second quarter resulted in 55 combined points between the two teams. While Goff fueled the Rock Falls offense with a series of aggressive drives to the rim, Lewis converted a pair of 3-pointers and Aguirre worked down low, backing down defenders with his 6-foot-5 frame and taking advantage of a smaller Rocket frontcourt with five close-range field goals at the rim.
Rochelle led 46-38 entering the second half, where sophomore Cayden Moore took his turn spearheading the offense with three nifty finishes at the basket. Moore finished with 18 points for the Hubs, who remained ahead 63-59 despite a resurgent effort from the Rockets, who briefly gained the lead late in the third quarter after a 3-pointer and back-to-back low-post makes from Diego Hernandez. Rock Falls had five athletes score in double figures on Tuesday.
“My teammates and I have been struggling to close out games so it felt good to win tonight,” Moore said. “My teammates encourage me all of the time to be strong with the ball and take it to the rim. Our coaches trust us to move the ball around and take the ball out when we have to.”
With both teams struggling to create any distance from each other throughout the fourth quarter, it was junior Eli Luxton’s rebounding ability on the offensive glass that proved to be a difference maker for the Hubs. Luxton scored on three putbacks and drew two fouls over the final minutes, sinking three free throws down the stretch to end the evening with 13 points. Junior Jack Tracey recorded 11 points and senior Colton O’Rorke added six points for Rochelle in the victory.
“I’m glad we came out on top tonight because we’ve blown leads in five of our last seven games,” O’Rorke said. “Coach [Tim] Thompson wants us to play fast and we think we play better when we’re playing fast. We knew we had to keep each other’s heads up during the game and we had to stay on each other. We needed to stay disciplined and play hard.”