MAPLE PARK — Ryan Simmons did his best to stay focused as the Rochelle Hub varsity basketball saw its first-half lead quickly evaporate against the Kaneland Knights on Friday.
With Rochelle ahead 35-26 entering the third quarter, Kaneland’s Troyer Carlson exploded from 3-point range, hitting several triples and sparking an 18-3 run that propelled the Knights over the Hubs 55-47 before the fourth quarter. Frustrated with how the previous quarter transpired, Simmons turned his calmness into intensity down the stretch, sinking clutch mid-range shots and scoring 10 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to lead Rochelle to a 74-69 win. The Hubs improved to 2-3 overall with the victory.
“We were mad about how things went down during the third quarter and I think getting mad and focusing on going hard were what helped me find my shots,” Simmons said. “Everyone’s excited about this win and it feels really good. It’s our first conference win of the season and it’s our first real road game. We didn’t shoot very well at the beginning, but we came around.”
Carlson led all scorers with 29 points on Friday, while Kaneland’s Jacob Harrison scored 24 points. Harrison ignited the Kaneland offense in the first quarter, attacking the basket and converting multiple layups. Trailing 16-10 entering the second quarter, Rochelle amped up its full-court pressure and man-to-man defense, deflecting several inbounds passes and creating turnovers that allowed the Hubs to break off a 14-5 run and take control of the game.
“We wanted to do a full-court press and then drop back into man-to-man defense with some 1-3-1 zone,” Simmons said. “We struggled with our press toward the beginning of the game, but we figured it out as the game went on. I thought our zone defense was OK tonight.”
Seven Rochelle players scoring during the second quarter including senior Noah Brown, who scored 14 points and made four 3-pointers but was issued a technical foul and benched during the second half. With Brown’s hot shooting hand on the sideline, Carlson caught fire during the second half, hitting four 3-pointers in the third quarter to carry the Kaneland offense.
“We talked during our timeouts about keeping our composure and how we weren’t out of the game,” Simmons said. “We knew we had time left to fight back and that’s what we did.”
Losing 66-55 midway through the fourth quarter, Rochelle made one final run to stun the Knights, scoring 15 unanswered points and taking a four-point lead on a clutch corner 3-pointer from sophomore Eli Luxton during the final minute. Senior Adam Kemp stepped up at the free-throw line as well, making four shots to cap off a 12-point scoring performance in the win.