ROCHELLE — If the first quarter was any indication, LaSalle-Peru looked ready to blow the Rochelle girls basketball team out of the gym when the Lady Hubs took on the Cavaliers in conference play Saturday afternoon.
Cavalier guard Brooklyn Ficek drained three triples in the first quarter, helping LaSalle-Peru open the game on a 10-2 run and leading the Cavaliers to a 21-5 advantage entering the second quarter. Rochelle fought back to bring LaSalle-Peru within four points after three quarters, but the Cavaliers held on long enough for a 67-57 win. The Lady Hubs dropped their 10th straight game and moved to 3-19 overall with the loss.
“A lot of the slow start was due to our energy level,” head coach Tony Rowan said. “We talk about being the aggressor and not being on our heels. We picked our energy up over the second and third quarters but we had a big hill to climb. We came close but they were able to push through and extend their lead.”
Ficek was LaSalle-Peru’s go-to shooter in the first half, making four 3-pointers to lead the Cavaliers with 12 points over the first two quarters. The Cavaliers struggled to get standout forward Rhiannon Skoog going, however, and Rochelle’s ability to throw multiple defenders at her forced LaSalle-Peru to kick the ball out and settle for perimeter shots.
The Lady Hubs held Skoog to only four points in the first half, and despite only making two shots in the opening quarter, seven Rochelle players entered the scorebook in the second quarter including sophomore Josie Lundquist, who finished the game with 14 points and helped the Lady Hubs come within 10 points at halftime with a 34-24 deficit.
“I thought the girls defended Skoog phenomenally,” Rowan said. “We only let her get one basket in the game and the remainder of her points came from free throws. We were digging her out of the post and forcing her to pass the ball out to their 3-point shooters, and I thought the kids did a good job of contesting her shots.”
Rochelle continued to surge in the third quarter, as junior guard Sofia Lenkaitis nailed three triples of her own to push the Lady Hubs within four points entering the fourth quarter. Trailing 49-45, the purple and white did everything they could to keep Skoog out of the paint, but the fouls started to pile up for Rochelle. LaSalle-Peru entered the bonus with about five minutes to play, and the Cavaliers earned the double bonus with roughly three minutes to go.
Nearly all of the LaSalle-Peru points in the fourth quarter came on free throws, with Skoog (16 points) and guard Lauren Klein (15 points) swishing the bulk of the attempts. Lenkaitis added a fourth 3-pointer in the final minutes to finish with a game-high 17 points.
“The girls were reading each other on cuts and passes,” Rowan said. “Defensively, they were flowing with each other. I thought this was our best game in terms of team chemistry, and I’m hoping that we can build on every aspect of this performance.”
The Rochelle girls basketball team faced a familiar foe on the road this past Tuesday evening, but the end result was unfortunately the same for the purple and white.
The Lady Hubs hosted Sandwich this past Saturday, and while Rochelle was competitive throughout the first half, the Indians surged in the second half and exited with a 22-point victory. The Interstate 8 Conference schools reunited for their rematch on Tuesday, only Sandwich was in full control this time around, winning 51-33 over the Lady Hubs and dropping Rochelle to 3-18 overall.
"The biggest issue for us was turnovers," head coach Tony Rowan said. "Their press was more effective against us this time around, especially in the first half. They disrupted everything we tried doing offensively. We couldn't get into a flow, and I think we had 17 or 18 turnovers in the first half."
Sandwich's defensive press stymied Rochelle, as the Indians limited the Lady Hubs to four first-quarter points and only 19 points over the first three quarters. While Rochelle outscored Sandwich 14-7 during the fourth quarter, the Indians had already build a 25-point advantage with the score at 44-19. The Lady Hubs finished with 26 turnovers.
"We need to continue taking steps forward, whether they're in practice or in games," Rowan said. "We want to see consistent focus and effort. We're still cleaning up a lot of the problems we had at the beginning of the season in terms of our unforced turnovers. We're starting to rebound the ball better on defense, but turnovers have been out Achilles' heel so far, and we have to clean those up."
Sofia Lenkaitis scored nine points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field for Rochelle, while sophomore Josie Lundquist totaled seven points and five rebounds. Afi Gati made both of her field-goal attempts in the game, scoring four points with five rebounds. Sam House recorded six points on two field goals and a pair of free throws.