DIXON — The combination of nerves, cold shooting and some tough zone defense by the Dixon Duchesses made scoring opportunities difficult for the Lady Hubs varsity basketball team when the girls battled in the IHSA Class 3A Regional Semifinals at Dixon High School on Wednesday.
The Lady Hubs and Dixon met this past Saturday for Rochelle’s Senior Day celebration, with the purple and white downing the Duchesses 54-45. But the Dixon girls exacted their revenge when it mattered most, and the second-seeded Duchesses bounced the eighth-seeded Lady Hubs from the regional bracket with a 44-26 win over Rochelle (12-17) on Wednesday.
“They sat in the 2-3 zone all game,” head coach Tony Rowan said. “The key to the game was going to be making shots, but tonight we weren’t able to make shots. It was a struggle for us throughout, and we just need to learn to read and react to different types of screens and attack the basket a little bit harder when we have the ball. Basketball is definitely a learning process.”
Buckets from both seniors Cesca Vardman and Jacie Wyatt gave Rochelle an early lead in the first quarter, but the Duchesses immediately turned the game in their favor, with forward Zoe Carr scoring several baskets in the low post and shooters such as guards Britney Pitzer and Avery Fox knocking down perimeter jumpers. Dixon led Rochelle 14-7 after the first quarter.
“Pitzer was huge and she did a great job of handling our pressure and getting up and down the floor,” Rowan said. “She was getting a lot of deflections, and Carr is a post player who can turn and shoot over girls. When you can turn and shoot over girls it’s like shooting target practice, especially when we’re trying to stretch our defense out.”
The Duchesses went up 25-14 at halftime, with Vardman scoring seven points to lead the Lady Hubs and senior Morgan Baker adding five points. Dixon continued to stretch its advantage in the third quarter, and while turnovers hurt the Rochelle offense in the second half, the pressure of trailing late may have also led to some mental mistakes by the Lady Hubs.
“I think we were playing very reactionary instead of anticipatory,” Rowan said. “That happens in big games like this but the effort the kids had in this game was phenomenal. The minor edge on focus just wasn’t there in our preparation but I think the kids did a great job defensively… We were able to get stops but we weren’t able to make shots the way we did on Saturday.”
Leading 33-21 after three quarters, Dixon grinded out offensive possessions in the fourth quarter while remaining disciplined with its zone as Rochelle battled for its postseason live. Unfortunately for the purple and white, Dixon proved too strong to overcome on Wednesday, and the Duchesses will now play for the regional championship on Friday.
Baker finished with a team-high 10 points for Rochelle while adding five rebounds, four steals and two assists. Vardman totaled eight points and five rebounds for the Lady Hubs, and Wyatt ended with a team-leading seven rebounds. Junior Abby Lundquist chipped in three points and four rebounds.
“The kids have done a great job throughout the season,” head coach Tony Rowan said. “I’m hoping the younger kids in our program who have looked up to our seniors can carry on their big sister mentality. I’m very happy with the direction that our seniors have put us in… It’s going to take extra effort to get where we want to be, and we have the kids who want to do it.”