Boys Basketball: Hubs fall in home opener against Kaneland

Moore leads Rochelle with 17 points in 79-56 loss

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ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Hub varsity basketball team had its hands full with guarding talented 6-foot-6 forward Freddy Hassan on Tuesday evening, when the purple and white hosted their home opener against the Kaneland Knights in Interstate 8 Conference action.

A pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter helped spark the Kaneland offense early on, with the Knights taking a 21-11 lead into the second quarter, where Rochelle junior Cayden Moore ignited the Hubs with multiple aggressive drives and finishes at the rim. Rochelle needed a third-quarter rally to fight back into the game, but the Hub defense was unable to contain Hassan, who scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Knights over Rochelle 79-56.

“[Hassan] was getting a lot of his shots on initial breakdowns at the top of our defense and that’s one thing that we have to fix,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “They were making straight line drives and we’re having to help, but we’re not helping the helper and we’re not getting another defender down to take away. They were dropping the ball down to [Hassan] and it was a layup for him every time because we weren’t helping and we were too worried about their shooters.”

Kaneland guards Troyer Carlson and Preston Popovich, who combined for 30 points Tuesday, each converted 3-pointers in the first quarter to help fuel the Knight offense early on. With the Hubs needing a spark of their own, Rochelle turned to its junior guard Moore, who scored most of his team-high 17 points during the second quarter. Moore went 7-for-13 from the field for the Hubs, who struggled to shoot the ball as a team, finishing the game at 32.8 percent overall.

“It’s all about confidence with Cayden,” Thompson said. “His confidence goes up and down, but I think he’s been great at attacking the rim and I want him to do that more, but I also think he needs to be better on defense because I think he’s a really good defender and I think he can get more steals, which would lead to more touches around the rim. If he can do that, then I think he can score anywhere from 17-to-20 points per game because he’s that kind of athlete.”

Kaneland took a 41-31 lead into the third quarter, where Hassan was nearly unguardable in the painted area, finishing several close-range shots and drawing a series of fouls to reach the free-throw line. Hassan ended the night with a game-high 15 rebounds for the Knights, who built a 65-49 lead after three quarters. Freshman Brody Bruns provided a scoring punch for the Hubs in the third quarter, sinking a trio of shots including a 3-pointer for seven of his 11 total points.

“Varsity games are tough on freshmen and there are some stumbling blocks with playing young kids, but Brody belongs at this level,” Thompson said. “He has a knack for scoring the basketball and he was fighting the best he could down low. He’s learning how to play defense and how to be physical… When he starts to figure it out in terms of going full speed, the sky's the limit.”

A series of runout layups early in the fourth quarter helped seal the win for the Knights, who saw Carlson finish with 19 points and Popovich finish with 11 points. Senior Eli Luxton recorded 13 points and seven rebounds along with a team-high five blocks and five assists for Rochelle in the loss on Tuesday. Junior Carson Lewis scored nine points on three 3-pointers made.