Boys Basketball: Hubs lose last-second heartbreaker against Kaneland

Senior Noah Brown guards Kaneland's Sam Gagne during the Rochelle Hub varsity basketball game against the Knights on Wednesday. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Harrison's walk-off 3-pointer lifts Knights over Rochelle 71-70

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Hub varsity basketball team looked primed for its seventh consecutive victory Wednesday evening. Leading the Kaneland Knights 66-51 with roughly five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Rochelle had full control of the game and its eyes on an Interstate 8 Conference season sweep.

But the Hubs struggled down the stretch, with the Knights knocking down crucial 3-pointers and forcing critical turnovers to bring Rochelle within two points with under 10 seconds remaining in regulation. After another Rochelle turnover on an errant full-court pass allowed the Knights to take possession and call timeout in the final seconds, Kaneland ran one final offensive set for senior guard Jacob Harrison, who drilled a 3-point shot at the top of the arc as time expired to give the Knights a stunning 71-70 win over the Hubs.

“They made some big 3-point shots during that stretch and I thought we were really tentative on offense,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “We needed to make sure we were cutting harder, but we were becoming tighter in how we were moving the ball and executing our offense. We didn’t make any easy layups down the stretch and we had too many passes deflected and too many balls thrown away. We were too lax down the stretch and when we’re in those situations, we have to be much crisper in everything we do.”

Rochelle (11-9, 6-2 Interstate 8) stormed out of the gate in the first quarter, frustrating the Knights with their full-court press defense and forcing multiple Kaneland turnovers that led to easy layups at the basket. Senior guards Ryan Simmons and Adam Kemp led the charge for the Hubs, combining for 15 points on seven made field goals in the first quarter to help give Rochelle a 25-12 lead over the Knights.

“I loved our energy and effort in the first quarter,” Thompson said. “We were deflecting passes and we were making the extra passes. It’s everything we’ve ever wanted all season. But I thought Kaneland made a run during the second quarter and we weren’t running good offense. We weren’t getting many 50-50 balls and they were outrebounding us. Those were what allowed them to get back into the game.”

The Knights slowed Rochelle down in the second quarter, limiting the Hubs to only seven points and making it a 32-27 game at halftime. Looking to reignite the Rochelle offense, Simmons took command of the basketball, driving to the basket and converting four layups while going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line after drawing fouls at the rim. Kemp also caught fire for the Hubs, hitting his second triple of the night in the third quarter before drilling three triples in the fourth quarter. Kemp and Simmons each scored 22 points.

“It was awesome to see how comfortable Adam looks at the wing right now,” Thompson said. “His shot looks good right now and Ryan was taking it to the hole effectively. I felt really good about how they were playing in the second half. Unfortunately, we made too many mistakes down the stretch. But it’s better for us to make these sorts of mistakes on Jan. 19 than it would be to make them on Feb. 19.”

Trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter, Kaneland looked to sophomore guard Troyer Carlson, who heated up with four field goals including three 3-pointers to fuel a 20-4 run that saw the Knights take the lead in the final moments on Harrison’s game-winning triple. Carlson and Harrison combined for 33 points in the game.