ROCHELLE — Hub senior Garrett Burdin knew he’d be in for a big night after knocking down his first two 3-point shots of the Rochelle varsity basketball game against Sycamore on Friday.
Burdin went 4-for-4 from the field to start the evening, scoring Rochelle’s first 11 points on three triples and a layup. Sycamore had no answers for the senior guard, who finished the night with a season-high 30 points including 23 in the first half to lead the Hubs over the Spartans 73-56. Rochelle improved to 4-4 overall and 4-3 in the Interstate 8 with the win.
“When I hit my first two shots, I felt the ball coming off my hand right,” Burdin said. “My teammates were getting me open looks and Sycamore was in the wrong defense. I think being face-guarded by some of the best defenders in the conference has helped me this season and that’s what happened tonight. I’ve learned to play through it and my numbers have gone up.”
Burdin scored 14 points in the first quarter, helping Rochelle take an 18-9 lead over Sycamore into the second quarter, where Burdin added four of his game-high 12 field goals. Juniors Tanner Lager, Adam Kemp and senior Spencer Warborg each added 3-pointers for the Hubs, who finished the first half strong on a pair of low-post baskets from sophomore Raul Aguirre.
Down 44-23 at the half, Sycamore leaned on junior standout Xavier Gagnepain, who showcased his elite athleticism with several quick drives to the rim and multiple put-back shots over Hub defenders. Gagnepain made four baskets and scored 11 of his team-high 22 points in the third quarter, allowing the Spartans to bring Rochelle within a dozen, 57-45, after three quarters.
“We need to keep people out of the paint,” Burdin said. “I think we still need to get better defensively. If we can do that, I think we have a shot to win the conference championship.”
With Rochelle needing someone to step up in the fourth quarter, Lager entered attack mode for the Hubs, scoring nine of his 14 points on two powerful drives to the hoop, an open triple from the corner and a pair of free throws after contact at the basket. Rochelle limited Gagnepain to only two fourth-quarter points and outscored the Spartans 16-11 in the period.
“Coach [Jared] Johnson talked with me before the game about how I haven’t been attacking how I normally can,” Lager said. “He talked to me about getting to the rim and that was my goal in this game. Sycamore swept us last season, so it was nice to sweep them this year. We need to keep improving our defense in order to get some wins over the next stretch.”
The Hubs will resume conference play at LaSalle-Peru on Monday, March 1 at 7 p.m.