ROCHELLE — Looking to build on an overtime victory over Ottawa on Tuesday, the Rochelle Hub varsity basketball team fell flat during Friday’s Interstate 8 matchup against Sycamore.
Rochelle opened the game with a 5-0 run early in the first quarter, but the Spartans dominated the rest of the conference contest, forcing a multitude of turnovers while using a combination of fastbreak offense and perimeter shooting to cruise over the Hubs 67-39. Junior Eli Luxton scored a team-high 17 points for Rochelle (6-11, 2-6 Interstate 8) in this loss Friday evening.
“Sycamore looked really quick and I thought they guarded us really well,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “We were one-and-out on all of our shots and that put a lot of pressure on us to make shots. When we missed shots, they had players running out all of the time and that led to easy buckets. Once they started hitting 3-pointers and we continued to turn the ball over, there wasn’t much we could do… I didn’t think we’d come out and score in the 30s tonight.”
Lucas Winburn fueled the Sycamore offense in the first quarter, knocking down multiple jumpers including a pair of triples for 10 of his 14 points on Friday. The Spartans gradually built their lead throughout the first half, using their three-quarter-court press and half-court defense to force several Rochelle turnovers. Sycamore limited senior forward Raul Aguirre, who scored 20 points in Rochelle’s win over Ottawa, to only five points on two made field goals Friday evening.
“We haven’t played well in our home gym all season and I’m not sure why that’s been the case,” Thompson said. “We know there are nights like these in athletics where these performances can happen, but where I was more discouraged was that we had a really nice performance against Ottawa and we’ve played some really close games where we’ve scored in the 60s or 70s.”
The Spartans led 37-23 entering the third quarter, where Sycamore ran away from the Hubs with a 24-6 run that ultimately sealed the game. Several of the Spartan field goals came on the fastbreak, where Sycamore’s defense created transition layups on the other end. Jaxon Tierney, who led the Spartans with 22 points on Friday, converted two of his team-leading four 3-pointers during the third quarter to help stretch the Hub defense and balloon the Sycamore lead.
“I used two timeouts early in the third quarter and went into my coaching toolbox to figure out whatever I could to motivate us,” Thompson said. “We had to put together some stops and we were able to get a stop on our first defensive possession, but the next thing we knew, we were down by 20 points and it snowballed from there… It’s always been in our DNA to play fast and go for 50-50 balls. Right now, our DNA is turning the ball over and not being tough on the court.”
Rochelle will face Kaneland in conference play on the road Wednesday evening at 7 p.m.