GENOA — It was tough for the Rochelle varsity boys basketball team to create separation from the Genoa-Kingston Cogs over the first three quarters of Tuesday evening’s nonconference game. The Hubs amped up their defense in the fourth quarter, however, and they made some key shots and free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Fourteen offensive rebounds from the Cogs kept Genoa-Kingston alive throughout most of the game. Rochelle held a slim 49-46 lead entering the fourth quarter, but the Hubs outscored Genoa-Kingston 25-14 over the final minutes to win 74-60 and improve to 3-2 overall. Rochelle will host Sterling for its first conference game on Friday at 7 p.m.
“They weren’t pressuring the ball as much as they did during the Strombom tournament and they were getting back and playing man-to-man defense in the half court more often,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “We were getting some easy shots early in the game but we weren’t boxing out well at all… Every time we made a little run, we would give up offensive rebounds and they were able to come back.”
Senior forward Johnny Beck scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Rochelle on Tuesday, while junior guard Landan Martin added a season-best 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting and 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. Junior guard Austin Brown recorded a team-high five assists for the Hubs, with Beck and Martin each totaling four assists.
“I was really proud of Landan’s effort yesterday,” Thompson said. “He was both a point guard and a scorer at the sophomore level last year but he’s stepping into a team where we already have a proven scorer in Johnny… I think it clicked for Landan last night because he was able to pick out areas where he could get open shots and drive into the lane to make things happen.”
Rochelle led 32-27 at halftime before Genoa-Kingston tightened things up in the third quarter behind guard Nate Nesler, who finished with 20 points to lead the Cogs on Tuesday. Defense sparked the Hubs over the final minutes, and Rochelle ended the game with nine total steals including two from sophomore Garrett Burdin (five points), senior Kaleb Ackland (eight points) and Martin. Brown added three points and junior Ben Hickey chipped in two points.
“I felt like we guarded their players better in the fourth quarter and we were putting bodies on them,” Thompson said. “They weren’t getting as many offensive rebounds and Landan made a big 3-pointer down the stretch. They were hacking us over the final two minutes and we were able to make our free throws to put the game away.”