SANDWICH — With his team needing a bounce-back win after dropping two straight conference matchups, Tanner Lager delivered an all-around solid offensive performance when the Rochelle Hub varsity basketball team faced Sandwich on the road Friday evening.
The junior guard had his scoring talents on display, leading Rochelle with a season-high 21 points on nine made field goals including three 3-pointers. The Hubs opened the second half with a strong third quarter, defeating Sandwich 75-59 and improving to 5-6 overall. Rochelle moved to 5-5 in the Interstate 8 Conference with three games remaining in the season.
“I kept attacking the basket and my shots were falling tonight,” Lager said. “It felt really good. We were getting the ball up the court pretty fast and their defense wasn’t the greatest, so we were able to score layups on the other end by moving the ball up the court quickly. If we can play better defense, push the ball and shoot it well, we can hopefully pull three wins out.”
Rochelle successfully held Sandwich guard Marial Puou in check Friday evening, limiting the 6-foot-7 standout to 15 points and forcing him to shoot multiple off-target shots from the perimeter. Lager and senior Garrett Burdin paced the Hub offense Friday evening, with Burdin knocking down a pair of field goals including a corner triple in the first quarter of play.
“We’ve been having trouble on defense and pushing the ball up the floor,” said junior Noah Brown, who scored nine points and made two 3-pointers on Friday. “We need to stay locked in over this last week and win out. We need to stay healthy and get our legs underneath us.”
Lager took over in the second quarter, using his dribble-drive and his 6-foot-3 frame to convert three baskets around the rim while also hitting an open 3-pointer from the elbow. Despite Puou’s difficult evening, Sandwich forward Jacob Heilemeier utilized his mid-range offense to keep the Indians competitive, scoring 10 of his team-leading 18 points in the first half. With the Indians seeking their first victory of the season, Rochelle remained tied 36-36 at the half.
“We didn’t want to be the first team to lose to Sandwich,” Brown said. “We knew we had to win and coach [Tim] Thompson always tells us to play every game like it’s a regional game.”
Third quarters have been a sore spot for the Hubs this season, but that wasn’t the case on Friday, as Rochelle outscored Sandwich 19-8 in the period to take control of the game. A pair of 3-pointers from both Lager and Burdin sparked the resurgent Hub effort in the second half, while junior Ryan Simmons buried a corner triple for three of his seven points Friday night. The Hubs will host the Plano Reapers on Tuesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. for Senior Night.
The Rochelle Hub sophomore basketball team edged Sandwich 34-32 on Friday, improving to 6-5 overall this season. The sophomores will face Plano on Tuesday, March 9 at 5 p.m.