FORRESTON — Fast-break offense was the primary method of scoring for both the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity basketball team and the defending IHSA 2A state runner-up Winnebago Indians during the fourth round of the Forreston Thanksgiving Tournament on Monday.
Rochelle battled throughout the first half, but conditioning became a factor for the Lady Hubs down the stretch, as Winnebago wore Rochelle down with its consistent full-court pressure on defense. Despite a valiant effort over the first two-and-a-half quarters, the Lady Hubs were unable to maintain pace with the Indians, who ultimately took down Rochelle 60-40.
“Any time we can compete with a program like that, it shows how tough our girls are,” head coach Ryan McQuade said. “Our girls played really tough defense tonight and if we can continue to progress like we have throughout this tournament, we’ll find ourselves in a lot of games this season. I think we have the talent and tonight, we showed tenacity and grit.”
The Lady Hubs (1-4, 0-0 Interstate 8) leaned on their half-court defense early, forcing Winnebago into contested shots near the basket while the Indians struggled to knock down shots from the perimeter. Rochelle and Winnebago remained tied at 9-9 entering the second quarter, where the Lady Hubs had a tough time pushing the ball through Winnebago’s full-court press, committing several turnovers that helped spark a 12-2 Indian run on mostly layups.
“I thought our half-court defense was stellar tonight, especially during the first half,” McQuade said. “I thought we were gassed near the end of the game and our conditioning isn’t where we need it to be right now. The score wasn’t really indicative of how well we played tonight.”
Looking for a scoring surge of their own, the Lady Hubs turned to junior Alivia Henkel, who utilized her speed and quick hands on defense to score three transition layups off steals for six of her team-high nine points on Monday. The Henkel-led run allowed Rochelle to bring the Indians within six points at halftime with the score at 28-22. Winnebago opened the second half with an 8-2 run to retake control, once again capitalizing on turnovers from the Lady Hubs.
“Alivia’s talented enough to go on a 10-0 run on her own and her scoring keeps us in a lot of games,” McQuade said. “Her impact not only on the defensive side of the floor, but in the transition offense, will create a lot of opportunities for our team to be successful this season.”
Despite a pair of third-quarter field goals from junior Kara Martinez, who finished with eight points, Winnebago surged ahead of the Lady Hubs, eventually entering the fourth quarter leading 45-31. Senior Torrin Nantz converted Rochelle’s only 3-pointer of the evening, sinking a long ball early in the fourth quarter for three of her five points. Sophomore Kendyl Darby grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds for the Lady Hubs, who were outscored 32-18 in the second half.