Boys Basketball: Hubs host Senior Night matchup with Ottawa

The Rochelle Hub basketball team honored its six seniors before Friday's game against Ottawa. Above from left to right are manager Felix Schlenbecker, Landon DeLille, Wade Smith, Raul Aguirre, David Gerber and Colton O'Rorke. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Six seniors recognized before Friday's 70-54 loss to Pirates

ROCHELLE — Enthusiasm was high as the Rochelle Hub varsity basketball team looked to celebrate Senior Night on Friday with an Interstate 8 Conference win over the Ottawa Pirates.

Rochelle and Ottawa met earlier in the season, with the Hubs outlasting the Pirates for an overtime victory at the Kingman Gym. Friday’s conference rematch looked like it could be headed down to the wire as well, as Ottawa held a slim 36-34 lead at the halftime buzzer. But a fast start from the Pirate offense and a flurry of Hub turnovers in the third quarter quickly allowed Ottawa to surge ahead, taking a double-digit lead and ultimately handing Rochelle a 70-54 loss.

The Hubs (8-17, 3-9 Interstate 8) recognized their six senior team members including Raul Aguirre, David Gerber, Colton O’Rorke, Landon DeLille, Wade Smith and manager Felix Schlenbecker before the game began. Rochelle will face Oregon on the road Monday at 7 p.m.

“Our seniors are such amazing kids and they’ve fought through a lot of adversity when they didn’t receive a lot of playing time early in their careers,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “They’re getting some more time right now and they had a great experience being a part of our conference championship and regional championship team last season. They’ve been great leaders for our program, especially David and Raul. I’m really proud of how they’ve kept our team together, particularly with the kind of season we’ve had where things can get loose.”

While the seniors shared the spotlight prior to the start of the game, it was sophomores Carson Lewis and Cayden Moore who were the catalysts for the Hub offense during the first half. Lewis caught fire from 3-point range, sinking six first-half triples including four in the second quarter for all of his team-high 18 points on Friday. With Lewis finding his shooting rhythm, Moore attacked the rim and finished a pair of layups in the first quarter for four of his 12 points in the game.

“There’s a huge learning curve as a sophomore and the varsity level is a lot different than playing sophomore level basketball,” Thompson said. “They still have some holes in their game, but they’re out there competing all of the time and they’re learning all of the time. Carson’s a really good shooter and he’s going to continue developing his game, particularly in the mid range and handling the ball. Cayden’s still working on his left hand as well. I see a lot of potential in them, but they’re going to have to put a lot of time in the gym this offseason.”

The Pirates featured 6-foot-4 forward Payton Knoll during the first half, where the talented junior hit three first-quarter field goals including a pair of short floaters in the lane. Knoll controlled the low post in the second quarter, making two more layups and going 3-for-4 from the free-throw line after drawing a pair of fouls. Knoll scored 16 of his team-high 24 points in the first half. 

“I thought we came out fine and we were playing with the tempo that we wanted to,” Thompson said. “We had a few turnovers near the end of the first half, but I thought we were in a good place. We came out and tried to run a few plays to start the third quarter, but after the first minute, they were scoring on every possession and we were turning the ball over. I felt like they won the game in the third quarter. They made things difficult for us and it didn’t matter whether or not we were in man-to-man defense or zone defense. They made a lot of shots tonight.”

Ottawa began pulling away from Rochelle early in the third quarter, where a 43-38 Pirate lead quickly ballooned after a turnover and consecutive missed shots from the Hubs led to run outs and easy layups for Ottawa. The Pirates punished Rochelle in the paint, where 6-foot-5 forward Cooper Knoll made three low-post baskets while guard Levi Sheehan finished a pair of nifty layups. Knoll finished with 12 points and Sheehan totaled 11 points for the Pirates on Friday.

Rochelle burned three timeouts to try and contain Ottawa’s third-quarter outburst, but the Pirates eventually held a 57-43 advantage going into the fourth quarter, where guard Huston Hart buried a triple and a layup to give Ottawa a 22-point lead. Junior Eli Luxton recorded 10 points, while O’Rorke had five points for the Hubs in Friday’s Senior Night defeat.