ROCHELLE — The fast-paced tempo and the high-level energy inside the Rochelle Township High School gymnasium helped the Hubs ignite for their greatest scoring output of the season Tuesday evening, when the Morris Redskins arrived for an Interstate 8 Conference game.
Only days removed from an 80-point performance against Mendota, Rochelle’s triple threat (Landan Martin, Garrett Burdin and Austin Brown) caught fire midway through Tuesday’s game and propelled the Hubs over the Redskins 83-71. Martin finished with a game-high 34 points for Rochelle (6-9) and the backcourt trio scored all 27 of the team’s third-quarter points.
“We have a lot of shooters which leads a lot of teams to opening up the middle on defense,” Martin said. “I exploit that and I get a lot of my points around the bucket. We’re trusting each other, we’re moving the ball around and we’re trusting that our shots are going down.”
Leading his team into the second quarter with a 17-16 advantage, Martin commanded the painted area and used his quickness to score several layups and soft floaters around the rim. While Morris had a noticeable size advantage down low, the Redskins weren’t swift enough to contain Martin, who poured in 28 points across the second and third quarters.
“My teammates were finding me and getting me the ball when I was open,” Martin said. “They allowed me to score that much, and the energy in the gym kept us going.”
Burdin (22 points) knocked down three triples in the first half including two in the first quarter, allowing the Hubs to maintain a slight 39-34 lead after two quarters. Morris made second-half adjustments to seal Martin off from the painted area, but the senior guard was in his bag Tuesday night, stepping back and canning four 3-pointers in the third quarter to help the purple and white start the second half on a 27-8 run.
The stretch included both a triple and a layup through contact from Brown, who earned a loud applause from the students before sinking the freebie. Brown finished the game with 15 points.
“We’re shooting with confidence,” Brown said. “I take what the defense gives me. If the defense wants to pressure me and leave open shots for Garrett and Landan, or even Ryan [Simmons] and Ben [Hickey], I’ll hit whoever is open. If I’m open, I’m open. We’re playing the sport we love, and we had a lot of support from the fans tonight. The hype keeps us going.”
The Redskins made a slight surge in the fourth quarter, pulling together a 9-0 run to make it a 70-58 game with 5:36 remaining. Morris guard Jack Walker (21 points) did most of the damage, hitting multiple 3-pointers to keep the Redskins alive. But Rochelle’s dominant third quarter set Morris too far back, and the Hubs exited the building on a two-game winning streak. Sophomore Ryan Simmons scored six points on two 3-pointers in the victory.