FORRESTON — Spacing was the main concern for the Rochelle girls basketball team when the Lady Hubs continued the Forreston Thanksgiving Tournament against Winnebago on Monday.
The Indians pressed and trapped the Lady Hubs early in the game, forcing turnovers to start the first quarter on a 9-0 run before some transition baskets from Rochelle brought Winnebago closer. While the Lady Hubs found their half-court offense in the fourth quarter, the girls only made two shots across the second and third quarters of their 39-26 loss against the Indians. Rochelle (0-4) will wrap the tournament up with a final-round matchup against Morrison.
“Our kids are doing a really good job moving the basketball, but those turnovers come into play whenever we’re too tight or we’re too spread out,” head coach Tony Rowan said. “We had 25 turnovers tonight and those definitely hurt us, but whenever we’re able to get across the half-court line and get a good shot up, good things will come to us.”
Rochelle needed nearly six minutes to score its first bucket of the game, which came on a 3-point play from sophomore Josie Lundquist, who finished with six points. Sophomore Zoey Tabor followed with two layups, one coming on a 3-point play, to cut the Winnebago lead to 12-8 entering the second quarter.
The Indians frustrated the Lady Hubs with their half-court traps and three-quarter-court pressure all evening, but Winnebago’s inability to finish at the rim and knock down open shots kept Rochelle alive in the first half. The Indians led 21-10 at halftime, as the Lady Hubs went the entire second quarter without making a field goal. The two points came on free throws from junior Sofia Lenkaitis, who recorded six points in the game.
“It comes down to spacing,” Rowan said. “If we’re dragged too far, then there are too many defenders between us and the ball. If we’re too tight, the area we want the ball to go will be too clogged up. The kids really started buying into that after the Eastland game, they spaced out better against Stockton, and we spaced better tonight, but we had lapses that turned into 6-0 runs and 8-0 runs for Winnebago. I’m really proud of the effort tonight.”
Rochelle’s half-court offense continued to struggle in the second half, as the Lady Hubs knocked down only two baskets in the third quarter and Winnebago’s lead ballooned to 31-15. However, the Lady Hub defense stepped up to shut down Indian sophomore Miyah Brown, who emerged early in the game as Winnebago’s leading scorer and facilitator.
The positives carried into the fourth quarter for Rochelle, with five players making shots including Tabor, who finished with a team-high seven points. Junior Bella Lodico nailed a mid-range jumper from the left elbow, and Lundquist’s 3-pointer from the corner made it a 33-22 game before the Indians called timeout.
“Our bench was really active tonight,” Rowan said. “We were talking a lot more and we really recognized what we’re capable of on the offensive end. Miyah’s a phenomenal player and our kids did a great job of getting their hands in her face and limiting her touches.”
Rochelle played two tournament games on Saturday, falling 38-33 against Forreston in the morning before losing 52-21 against Stockton in the afternoon. Lenkaitis led the Lady Hubs with 11 points in the morning matchup with the Cardinals, while Lenkaitis and Lundquist each totaled five points in the finale against the Blackhawks.