MENDOTA — Senior forward Johnny Beck’s return to the Rochelle varsity boys basketball team sparked an offensive outburst when the Hubs battled Mendota during nonconference play on the road Saturday evening.
Beck showed no signs of slowing down after missing nearly one month with an ankle injury. The lengthy left-hander scored a team-high 19 points for the Hubs while adding eight rebounds, and Rochelle shot nearly 50 percent from the field to dismantle the Trojans 74-42 and improve to 6-10 overall. The Hubs are now 3-2 over their last five games.
“It was nice to see Johnny back in the lineup and he wasn’t favoring that ankle at all,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “He had good lift on his jumper and he blocked a few shots as well. It’s nice having that big presence in the game who can give up high double-figure scoring every night while also playing good defense. His presence helped everybody else out.”
The Hubs took control immediately with their full-court pressure on defense, closing out the first quarter with a 20-2 lead before Mendota found its offensive rhythm in the second quarter. Rochelle’s defense forced 26 turnovers in the game, and Thompson said the team’s press gave the Trojans fits all evening long.
“We were getting after them with our press and we made them settle for jump shots during our half-court sets,” Thompson said. “We were crashing the offensive boards, and getting second-chance opportunities gave us a lot of momentum. I felt like we got a little complacent in the second quarter.”
The Hubs outscored Mendota 22-16 in the second quarter to lead 42-18 at halftime. The Trojans finished shooting only 27 percent from the field, and Mendota was outrebounded 39-28 by Rochelle. While Beck made his return from injury, senior guard Noah Knight was also playing for the first time since injuring his leg during the football season. Knight totaled six points in nine minutes.
“I think his minutes will definitely grow,” Thompson said. “He’s still getting used to running and we had to monitor his minutes, but I thought he played well overall. His toughness and leadership is something we desperately need… I wouldn’t doubt that Noah challenges for a starting spot by the end of the year.”
Rochelle outpaced Mendota 24-14 in the third quarter before cooling off in the fourth quarter with eight more points. Junior Seth Gould finished with 14 points and five rebounds, while junior Ben Hickey added seven points. Five players including senior Kaleb Ackland, Knight and juniors Austin Brown, Landan Martin and Charlie Jandak recorded six points. Sophomore Garrett Burdin chipped in four points.
“Our goal is to turn the corner and I think the kids are looking forward to having a full team,” Thompson said. “We’re continuing to get healthy… Our schedule isn’t as tough as it was when we were playing teams like Ottawa and Rock Falls.”