ROCHELLE — Sophomore guard Garrett Burdin launched a 3-point attempt from well over 30 feet during the final seconds of the Rochelle varsity boys basketball team’s conference game against Sterling on Friday.
Burdin needed to sink the shot to bring the Hubs within one point of the Golden Warriors. With plenty of space to fire, the sophomore heaved the ball toward the hoop, and it ripped through the net, forcing Sterling to call timeout as the home crowd inside the Rochelle Township High School gymnasium erupted with applause.
The Hubs fouled Sterling’s Isaiah Ryan with 4.1 seconds remaining, and Ryan missed his first free-throw attempt. Senior forward Johnny Beck caught the rebound for Rochelle and fired a pass up the left sideline to Burdin. With less than one second remaining, Burdin shot the ball from near the half-court line, but Ryan retreated to block the shot and seal Sterling’s 48-47 win over Rochelle. The loss dropped the Hubs to 3-3 overall.
“They didn’t shoot the ball as well as they did during the Strombom tournament and I think that helped us out,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “Playing at home and having a nice crowd gave us some energy… I was really proud of our kids and they’re still figuring out how to blend together. This game will only help us.”
Sterling defeated Rochelle by nearly 20 points in tournament play last week, but the Hubs guarded the Golden Warriors well on the perimeter. Sterling didn’t sink a single 3-point shot in the game, with the Hubs outscoring the Golden Warriors 21-0 from beyond the arc. 3-pointers from Burdin and junior guard Austin Brown helped Rochelle lead 10-7 after the first quarter.
“We were trying to make them shoot contested shots from the perimeter,” Thompson said. “We wanted to guard the 3-point line more and use Johnny to change or alter shots.”
Neither team found much offensive rhythm in the first half, and the Hubs struggled to convert shots in the second quarter. Burdin and senior guard Kaleb Ackland each knocked down 3-pointers, but those were the only shots Rochelle made in the second quarter. Behind 6-foot-10-inch center Aidan Shore, who finished with a game-high 15 points, Sterling took the lead and held a 23-16 advantage at halftime.
“The first half was a real struggle,” Thompson said. “Sterling guarded hard and they sent double teams from good angles when we got the ball inside. We had a difficult time getting Johnny off because Aidan plays good help defense and Weston [Sisson] is really athletic which makes throwing entry passes into Johnny difficult.”
Rochelle quickly erased Sterling’s lead in the third quarter, however, as the Hubs frustrated the Golden Warriors with their transition defense. Brown and Gould each recorded steals which led to easy layups for the Hubs, who tied the game and kept the game tied 34-34 after three quarters.
“I thought our kids did a nice job getting their hands into them and digging away,” Thompson said. “We were able to knock balls away and keep balls alive… We were out there competing.”
Sterling only led by as many as five points in the fourth quarter, but the Hubs were unable to sink enough key shots to swing momentum into their favor. Burdin led Rochelle with 13 points in the game, while junior guard Landan Martin added 12 points including seven in the third quarter. Beck had 10 points, with Brown totaling eight points and both Ackland and Gould combining for four points.