LASALLE — The Hubs varsity basketball team held LaSalle-Peru to just three points during the third quarter of Northern Illinois Big 12 West action Tuesday night. Rochelle’s defense has been the deciding factor in recent games, and the Hubs pressured the Cavaliers all game long during their 53-38 win over LaSalle-Peru on the road.
Rochelle (13-9) played the Cavaliers close on its home floor earlier this season, with the Hubs beating LaSalle-Peru 54-45. Senior Angel Aguirre said the Hubs were more prepared for their rematch with the Cavaliers on Tuesday, and he said the team’s defense came through with big plays all evening.
“We had a little stretch where we weren’t playing well but we’ve picked things up recently and we’ve been playing well,” said Aguirre, who totaled 14 points and eight assists on Tuesday. “The first game was pretty close but we know how they play, especially on defense, and we were able to make some shots. We all think our defense is our biggest strength right now.”
Rochelle build a 17-9 lead over LaSalle-Peru after the first quarter, and the Hubs increased their advantage to 34-21 at halftime. Junior Johnny Beck led the scoring charge for the Hubs, recording 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting with five rebounds and two blocks. After struggling in his first encounter with the Cavaliers this season, Beck was happy to bounce back for his team.
“It felt really good to get that sense of winning again, especially right before regionals,” Beck said. “We were outworking them in the transition and once they got tired they wanted to go slow in the half-court and throw up bad shots. They were giving me room because I didn’t shoot the ball well in our last game against them… We’re playing awesome defense.”
LaSalle-Peru finished the game shooting 26.7 percent from the field and just 2-of-16 from 3-point range. Rochelle seniors Noah Griffith and Komla Gati combined for eight defensive rebounds and five steals on Tuesday, while seniors Riley Lodico and Noah Mershon each added one steal to go along with five combined points.
The Hubs outscored LaSalle-Peru 9-3 in the third quarter to lead 43-24 entering the fourth quarter and effectively seal the Rochelle victory. Rochelle is on a two-game winning streak after the boys held Morris under 40 points in a 60-39 win this past week. The boys had lost four games in a row prior to their games with Morris and LaSalle-Peru, but Gati said the team is getting hot at the right time with regionals just a few weeks away.
“I think we’re moving our feet well and we’re playing good help-side defense,” Gati said. “We’re communicating a lot better on defense. We need to keep working to improve our offense, but I feel like we can play well against any team if our defense is there. When our offense begins to click, we’ll go really far.”
Griffith, Gati and senior Blake Albers each scored four points in the win, while sophomore Seth Gould added two points. The Hubs will face Plano on the road Tuesday, Feb. 20.