ROCHELLE — Seeing his shot fall through the net after a quiet first half was enough for Rochelle junior Ryan Simmons to assert himself offensively during the third quarter of the Hub varsity basketball team’s Interstate 8 Conference contest against Sandwich on Wednesday.
Rochelle sunk nine 3-pointers in the game including four from Simmons, who nailed three triples in the third quarter and finished with a season-best 16 points in the Hub basketball team’s 65-61 victory over the Indians. Rochelle (2-3) snapped a two-game losing streak with the win and will face Plano on the road Friday evening to try for a two-game winning streak.
“We play better when we’re energized and in the game,” Simmons said. “We were up and down today but we were able to pull it out in the end… Once I hit my first shot in the third quarter, we started making better passes and good cuts, which opened up more shots for me and I was there to knock them down. I thought we moved the ball well at times, but we need to work on our defense. Our on-ball defense is what we need to work on most for next game.”
Sandwich held a 12-11 lead after the first quarter before Rochelle took over with better offensive ball movement in the second quarter. Seniors Garrett Burdin and Spencer Warborg combined for three 3-pointers in the period, while Simmons added another triple off an Indian turnover near the baseline. Junior Adam Kemp stepped up with a pair of put-back baskets on offensive rebounds for four of his eight points in the game. The Hubs led 35-25 at halftime.
“I thought being able to win down the stretch was huge for us,” Burdin said. “It showed that we can come together as a team and finish, which will be important for us later in the season. I thought we rebounded well tonight and we’re still working on passing the ball. I saw some improvements there and we shot the ball well from 3, which helped offset our turnovers.”
The 3-point barrage from Simmons helped Rochelle offset a strong third quarter from Sandwich forward Jacob Heilemeier, who made three mid-range baskets in the period and led the Indians with 15 points on Wednesday. Trailing 49-43 entering the fourth quarter, the Indians turned to 6-foot-9 guard Marial Puou, who not only hit a clutch 3-pointer late in the period, but drove into the lane for an emphatic dunk to cut the Hub lead to only three points.
“We definitely need to work on our defense,” Burdin said. “We’re giving up too many straight-line drives and we have to limit teams from getting in the paint. If we can improve on those, we’ll see improvements throughout the whole game and play better defense all around.”
Junior forward Zach Sanford, who scored 10 points on Wednesday, made it a two-possession game with a pair of free throws after Sandwich fouled him and put Rochelle in the bonus. Sanford’s shots were quickly erased by a 3-pointer from Indian guard Ian Kelson, who buried an elbow triple that preceded a Sandwich timeout with Rochelle up 63-61 and 19.5 seconds left. The Hubs successfully inbounded the ball to Burdin, who drilled both free throws on the other end to seal the win. Burdin led all players with 23 points in the Rochelle victory.
The Rochelle Hub sophomore basketball team earned its first win of the season on Wednesday, defeating the Sandwich Indians 61-45. The sophomores improved to 1-4 overall with the victory. Rochelle will face Plano on the road Friday at 5 p.m.