SYCAMORE — Two 6-foot-8 forwards stood between the Rochelle Hub varsity basketball team and its first win of the season during the Strombom Tournament opener on Wednesday.
Rochelle battled Yorkville in the opening round, with the Foxes sending out two 6-foot-8 brothers in Justin Jakstys and Jason Jakstys, who each reached double figures in scoring. Despite maintaining a slim lead near the end of the fourth quarter, Rochelle was unable to hold off the Foxes, who scored nine unanswered points to close out a 55-50 win over the Hubs.
“I was disappointed that we didn’t win and I thought we could’ve worked the ball around a little better down the stretch,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “I didn’t feel comfortable going into a stall because they had some pretty athletic guards and I wanted to run offense, but we had some unforced turnovers at the end. They made some layups down the stretch and our issue early in the game was we were reaching too much and giving them too many free throws.”
Sophomore Eli Luxton started Rochelle’s offense in the first quarter, sinking two straight 3-pointers from the corner for six of his eight points in the game. The Hubs saw three players reached double digits in scoring on Wednesday, with senior Noah Brown tallying 12 points while seniors Tanner Lager and Ryan Simmons finished with 11 points and 10 points.
“I think we’re going to be a good shooting team,” Thompson said. “We definitely need to utilize our post players more, but it was a tough matchup tonight with two 6-foot-8 forwards down there. We missed a lot of open 3-point shots tonight and even though we constantly preach about passing and giving up good shots for great shots, I don’t think we did that tonight.”
Yorkville entered the double bonus midway through the first half, but the Foxes struggled to make free throws, allowing the Hubs to maintain pace and eventually creep ahead in the third quarter with a 37-35 lead. Trailing 50-46 late in the fourth quarter, Yorkville rallied around one of its 6-foot-8 forwards in the sophomore Jason Jakstys, who led all players with 18 points and sunk multiple baskets around the rim to give the Foxes the late spark they needed.
“I liked our 1-3-1 zone tonight and I feel like teams are having a tough time getting shots up quickly against us because of our length,” Thompson said. “I think that’s a zone we can consistently go to as we move forward... I was relatively impressed with our press tonight. I thought Eli did a nice job of turning guys around and Cooper [Hasz] used his length to force some turnovers. I think Noah’s going to be a solid defensive player for us as well.”