DIXON — A few extra days off for the holidays may have done more harm than good for the Rochelle varsity girls basketball team when the Lady Hubs faced winless United Township during the first round of Dixon’s KSB Holiday Classic on Wednesday.
While the Panthers hadn’t won before the tournament began, United Township’s speed and length around the basket were noticeable right away. The Lady Hubs were unable to keep up with United Township’s pace in transition, and an inability to record stops on defense allowed the Panthers to win 69-57 over Rochelle and drop the Lady Hubs to 5-12 overall.
Rochelle will play two consolation games on Thursday, and the first one against Freeport will begin at 9 a.m. The Lady Hubs will play again at 3 p.m. against either Dixon or Burlington Central.
“We were out of shape and it seemed that we were extremely tired going up and down the floor,” head coach Tony Rowan said. “When you’re tired physically, you become tired mentally. I think having a few days off definitely hurt, and I’m hoping we can have a bounce-back day tomorrow.”
Both teams played a relatively even game through the first two quarters, with senior Abby Lundquist (19 points) and freshman Zoey Tabor (12 points, four rebounds and four assists) carrying the load on offense. The Panthers led 20-14 after the first quarter before Rochelle outscored United Township 18-14 in the second quarter to cut the team’s lead to two points at halftime. (34-32). Rowan credited his freshman point guard as a driving force for the Lady Hubs.
“There were times that we moved the ball really well and the girls were making open shots,” Rowan said. “Zoey did a phenomenal job for us today and she was really trying to lead us out there. She took great shots and she found gaps and made the right reads. I’m very proud of how Zoey played today.”
Despite strong rebounding efforts from freshman Sylvia Hasz (10 rebounds and nine points), freshman Lucy Bunger (seven rebounds, three assists and two points) and sophomore Afi Gati (seven rebounds and one point), the Lady Hubs fell behind by as many as 11 points during the second half. Quick transition runs by the Panthers led to clear shots around the rim, and quality passes into the painted area led to even more layups for United Township.
“There weren’t many positives on defense today,” Rowan said. “We struggled in transition, we struggled in our half-court defense and we struggled in our full-court defense. Our defense really hurt us today… We need to recover and have more energy tomorrow.”
Senior Makenna Ferrari totaled five points and two rebounds for Rochelle, while freshman Josie Lundquist added three pounds and two assists. United Township outscored the Lady Hubs 17-10 in the third quarter and 18-15 over the fourth quarter. Rochelle came within five points (60-55) with about two minutes to play until United Township’s 9-2 closing run.
“I like our matchup against Freeport on paper,” Rowan said. “We need to be crisp within every facet of the game. We’re really going to focus on our defensive intensity. We need to be sprinting instead of walking.”