Boys Basketball: Strong finish leads to win over Sandwich

Senior David Gerber protects the ball from a Sandwich defender during the Rochelle Hub varsity basketball game against the Indians on Friday. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Aguirre scores nine fourth-quarter points in 54-49 victory

SYCAMORE — Despite playing with four fouls, senior forward Raul Aguirre was aggressive during the fourth quarter of the Rochelle Hub varsity basketball team’s consolation-bracket matchup against Sandwich at the Strombom Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday afternoon.

With the Hubs needing a spark and looking to avoid consecutive losses to start the season, Aguirre went to work on the block, hitting three low-post field goals while sinking a 3-pointer from the elbow to score all nine of his points in the fourth quarter. A fastbreak layup from junior Eli Luxton, who led Rochelle with 14 points, in the final seconds helped secure a 54-49 win over the Indians. The Hubs will conclude the holiday tournament with one more game on Saturday.

“I wasn’t sure how soon we would win our first game because we have a lot of young guys and we have a lot of work to do,” Aguirre said. “We’re not the team we’re going to be quite yet and we’re still learning to trust each other. I was frustrated early in the game and it felt like things weren’t going my way, but I kept my head up and did what I needed to do for our team.”

Coming off a nearly 40-point loss against Sterling on Wednesday, Rochelle (1-1, 0-0 Interstate 8) showed better ball movement and shooting in the first quarter, where Luxton provided an early surge and junior Jack Tracey converted a pair of field goals to score five of his nine points to help the Hubs take a 17-10 lead. Both teams had issues with fouls in the first half, with Rochelle allowing the Indians into the double bonus midway through the second quarter. 

Sandwich capitalized on the Hub fouls, earning several trips to the free-throw line while the Indians slowed Rochelle down with quality half-court defense on the other end. Sandwich snuck ahead of the Hubs 26-24 at halftime and held a 38-37 advantage after the third quarter, where senior Colton O’Rorke, who finished with 10 points, nailed the second of two 3-pointers in the game. The first of four Aguirre buckets in the fourth quarter gave Rochelle the lead back.

“That first shot went in and I focused on taking smart shots from that point on,” Aguirre said. “I needed to be cautious since I had four fouls, but it felt good to put some shots into the basket. Being strong with the ball will be huge for us moving forward. Defenders are very aggressive at the varsity level and some of our younger guys are facing that for the first time. We need to continue working on taking care of the ball and making good, solid passes through contact.”

A running floater from senior David Gerber, who had five points on Friday, helped Rochelle maintain a two-or-three possession lead throughout the fourth quarter. Luxton and Gerber each split free throws in the final minute, keeping the Hubs ahead 52-49 as Sandwich ran one final play down the court. But a turnover underneath the basket and a quick outlet pass to Luxton for an easy layup made it a two-possession game with only seconds remaining to seal the win.