STERLING — The combination of tough zone and man-to-man defense slowed down the Sterling offense when the Rochelle varsity boys basketball team took the floor Friday evening for its conference rematch with the Golden Warriors.
The Hubs primarily defended in the zone throughout the first half before switching to some man-to-man sets closer to halftime. With standout center Aidan Shore struggling from the field, the Golden Warriors didn’t find much offense elsewhere, and Rochelle hung tough with arguably the toughest basketball team in the Northern Illinois Big 12 West.
Both teams entered their respective locker rooms with the game tied 28-28, but the Golden Warriors found their offensive rhythm in the third quarter, outscoring Rochelle 21-9 and coasting to a 68-50 win to drop the Hubs to 10-13 overall.
“I was really pleased with our performance in the first half,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “We came out in the zone and gave them a look they saw against us earlier in the year when they struggled to shoot the ball... We mixed up our defenses later in the half and I thought we defended man-to-man really well.”
Sterling outrebounded Rochelle 36-23, with the Golden Warriors owning the offensive boards 12-4 over the Hubs. Shore totaled 17 points and 14 rebounds in only 20 minutes, while junior Austin Brown was the only Rochelle player with five or more rebounds. Brown finished with three points, five rebounds and five assists.
“Shore’s length and size will always create a tough matchup for us,” Thompson said. “Johnny [Beck’s] doing everything he can to box Shore out, and we almost have to box him out with two guys. But that allows them to send other guys in for rebounds and it creates tough matchups for us. We know it’s always going to be difficult winning the rebounding battle with them.”
Sterling held a slim 14-12 lead after the first quarter before the Hubs bounced back with a 16-14 second-quarter performance behind Beck and sophomore Garrett Burdin, who scored 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting from 3-point range. Beck led the Hubs with 19 points in the game.
The Golden Warriors led 49-37 after a strong third quarter before extending their lead with a 19-13 run in the fourth quarter. While third quarters have hurt the Hubs in many games this season, Thompson said the lead change Friday evening revolved more around Sterling’s tough shot-making than anything mental for the Hubs.
“They made some tough shots and then we started pressing a little bit,” Thompson said. “We just weren’t shooting the ball very well even though we had open looks. In those situations, I think our guys start pressing a bit and that usually works against us. It does seem, though, where we have at least one quarter where we struggle to score.”
Senior Kaleb Ackland totaled five points and four rebounds, with senior Noah Knight recording four points. Juniors Charlie Jandak and Landan Martin each finished with two points for the Hubs.