ROCHELLE — The Lady Hubs defended Sandwich well during the first half of their Interstate 8 Conference basketball game against the Indians on Saturday.
Rochelle had an opportunity to snap its losing streak, trailing Sandwich by only five points entering the second half. The Lady Hubs came within one point of the Indians midway through the third quarter, but a 9-0 run from Sandwich sparked a significant late-game surge resulting in a 61-39 victory for the Indians and an eighth consecutive loss for Rochelle (3-17).
“The girls did a great job of keeping players in front of them for about 75 percent of the game,” head coach Tony Rowan said. “They rebounded defensively and they handed Sandwich’s pressure throughout the game. Our feet stopped moving in the third quarter and they were getting to the free-throw line. Their free-throw shooting was the deciding factor in the game.”
Junior guard Sofia Lenkaitis was aggressive in the first half for the Lady Hubs, using her left-handed dribble and her quickness to attack the basket and score multiple layups. Lenkaitis led Rochelle with nine points at halftime, with the team trailing Sandwich 25-20. Lenkaitis opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer that ignited a 7-3 run and cut the score to 28-27.
“Sofia gave it her all in terms of shooting gaps and trying to deflect passes,” Rowan said. “She’s really bought into playing hard, and not only has she earned more minutes, but she’s produced a lot more recently than she did at the start of the season.”
Sandwich guards Claire Roberts (16 points) and Ava Knepper (15 points) sparked the Indians midway through the third quarter, taking advantage of slow defensive rotations from the Lady Hubs to draw contact and put Rochelle in foul trouble. Sandwich drew eight fouls in the third quarter alone, and many of the team’s points in the 9-0 run came from bonus free throws.
“They did a great job of attacking the rim throughout the game,” Rowan said. “A lot of the game came down to hitting free throws. We made the effort defensively, but we were a step slow or a second behind on a lot of plays, and those resulted in a lot of fouls drawn for them.”
The Indians also got forward Josie Ness (16 points) going after a slow first half, and the team’s three-pronged threat helped Sandwich outscore Rochelle 20-10 in the third quarter and pull ahead 45-30. The Indians remained relentless in the fourth quarter, with Knepper and Roberts initiating several dribble-drives that resulted in layups or hand-offs for Ness to finish. Lenkaitis led all scorers with 17 points in the game.
Junior guard Sam House stepped up for the Lady Hubs this past Thursday, scoring a team-high 10 points and finishing 5-for-11 from the field in Rochelle's 40-28 loss against the Pirates. House also led the Lady Hubs with six rebounds, five steals and two blocked shots.
“Sam’s really developed her confidence,” Rowan said. “She’s coming into her shot and she’s more relaxed out there. Now that she has a little more free reign on offense, she’s picking her spots and picking them well.”
Ottawa opened the game with a dominant first quarter, outscoring Rochelle 14-1 behind Regan O'Fallon (13 points and 11 rebounds) and Ella Marvel (11 points). The Lady Hubs struggled to find their offense throughout the game, trailing the Pirates 24-7 at halftime and 33-15 after three quarters.
Sophomore Lucy Bunger recorded nine points, five rebounds and two steals for Rochelle. Bunger and House combined for eight of the team's nine made field goals in the loss. The Lady Hubs finished with 27 turnovers.
“The fun thing about Lucy is she gives 100-percent effort all of the time,” Rowan said. “It really hits home because of the effort and the dedication she has, both during the season and over the offseason. She played with maximum effort and she was all over the floor.”