SYCAMORE — Rebounding has hurt the Rochelle boys basketball team throughout the Strombom Thanksgiving Tournament, and the Hubs were pushed aside on the boards once again when the purple and white faced the Sycamore Spartans in the fifth-place consolation game Saturday evening.
Xavier Gagnepain scored nearly all of his game-high 23 points in the paint for Sycamore, and the Spartans rallied behind the talented forward to beat Rochelle 67-51 despite nearly losing their lead in the third quarter. The Hubs dropped to 1-3 overall and finished sixth in the tournament with the loss.
“Xavier was getting low in the post and he was spinning quickly on us,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “But where he really hurt us was that, even when he missed shots, he was the first player off the floor to rebound the ball… Until our kids really want to get physical with these kinds of players, we’re going to continue seeing those struggles.”
Gagnepain had 13 first-half points for the Spartans, who took advantage of multiple second, third and fourth-chance opportunities to gain additional offensive possessions early in the game. Sycamore’s ability to dominate the glass put the Spartans ahead 21-9 entering the second quarter, but a strong spurt from senior Seth Gould, who scored seven points in the quarter, helped Rochelle fight back. Sycamore held a 34-28 lead at halftime, with senior Austin Brown recording 10 points to spearhead the charge for the Hubs.
“I was discouraged with our ability to get out of defensive possessions,” Thompson said. “Some of these teams may be bigger than us, but we aren’t putting bodies on the opposing players. Sycamore scored a lot of second-chance points around the rim, and it seemed that every possession we had was a one-and-out while other teams are getting five or six shots off.”
Senior Landan Martin overcame a tough start to the game offensively, making two 3-pointers in the third quarter and adding a spinning basket on a post-up to cut the Sycamore lead to 41-39. That was as close as the Hubs came, however, as the Spartans held Rochelle scoreless for roughly the first six minutes of the fourth quarter before sophomore Ryan Simmons stopped the bleeding with a jump-stop basket in the mid-range area. Brown finished with a team-high 14 points in the loss, while Gould ended with nine points.
Rochelle faced the Sterling Golden Warriors in the final round of pool play Friday evening, falling well short in a 79-47 loss despite 16 points from Landan Martin and 14 points from junior Garrett Burdin. Cooper Willman poured in a game-high 25 points for Sterling.
“It was a struggle and I was discouraged with our effort,” Thompson said. “We were one-and-out on offensive possessions and they had excellent ball movement… It got out of hand, but it’s one of those games that we didn’t want to forget about. We had a long talk after the game about how we need to play in those types of situations and how we can’t give in.”