ROCHELLE — As the turnovers mounted for the Mendota Trojans on Saturday, the Rochelle Hubs took advantage and mounted a ferocious second-half surge that resulted in one of their largest victories of the 2019-20 season.
The Hubs showed no signs of fatigue despite playing for the second straight night after a tough loss against Plano on Friday. The Trojans were unable to handle Rochelle’s defensive pressure, and season-best performances from players like senior Ben Hickey (15 points) and sophomore Ryan Simmons (12 points) allowed the Hubs to dominate the second half and pummel Mendota 80-45. Ten players made at least one basket for Rochelle (5-9).
“I’ve been so pleased with Ben all season long,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “He’s been a workhorse for us on defense and even though he may be the fifth option in our starting lineup, he doesn’t complain about anything… Ryan has put together two nice games in a row and he’s starting to feel more comfortable at the varsity level.”
The two-man game between Hickey and senior teammate Landan Martin (22 points) sparked Rochelle in the first quarter. The Hubs capitalized on Mendota’s poor handles, forcing turnovers that allowed Rochelle to push the ball down the floor and convert transition layups. Martin and Hickey each totaled seven first-quarter points for the Hubs, who led 20-11 to open the game.
“This win really boosts our confidence,” Hickey said. “We’ll be ready for our next game against Morris and we’re going to give them everything we have. My teammates were looking for me when I was open and I was able to finish. We knew they didn’t have great ball handlers, so we doubled them every chance we had and that’s how we forced so many turnovers.”
Martin continued terrorizing the Trojans in the second quarter, using his 6-foot-2 frame to body his way into the mid-range area for multiple jumpers and layups around the rim. Martin compiled 10 second-quarter points, and both he and Hickey were in double figures by halftime. Sophomore reserve Adam Kemp chipped in a 3-pointer, helping Rochelle build a 41-24 lead.
“I was really pleased with Adam’s performance,” Thompson said. “He was diving on the floor to grab loose balls and he was making the extra passes. He added to the game tonight.”
Rochelle outscored Mendota 29-13 in the third quarter, with Simmons sparking the surge after sinking three straight shots including back-to-back 3-pointers in less than 30 seconds. The 6-foot-4 sophomore was one of seven Hubs who entered the scorebook in the third quarter.
“We have a lot of motivation for our next game,” Simmons said. “I wasn’t hitting shots very well in the first half, but I found my rhythm in the second half and my shots kept falling. We wanted to move the ball around, use overhead passes and look for good shots.”
The game entered running clock territory in the fourth quarter, with Rochelle leading 70-37. Junior reserve Nolan Morrissette shined in the final minutes, scoring eight points on a strong take to the rim and two 3-pointers from the top of the arc. Four Hubs ended the evening in double figures including Martin, Hickey, Simmons and Garrett Burdin (11 points).
Rochelle faced the Plano Reapers on the road Friday evening, falling 74-65 despite 21 points from Garrett Burdin and 15 points from Landan Martin. The Hubs came within five points with 50 seconds remaning, but were unable to complete the rally. Plano led 61-44 after three quarters.