MARENGO — Ryan Simmons has shown flashes of dynamic scoring potential throughout his three-year career with the Rochelle Hub varsity basketball team. When Simmons and the Hubs faced a talented Wauconda team in the second round of the E.C. Nichols Holiday Classic on Tuesday, the 6-foot-6 senior guard proved to be unstoppable from the opening possession.
Simmons had his full offensive arsenal on display, converting multiple 3-point shots while finishing several drives at the rim with both his strong and opposite hands. The senior starter finished with a career-high 38 points including 24 points in the first half, but the Hubs were slightly outpaced by the Bulldogs, who rallied behind two dynamic scorers of their own to win 89-78. Rochelle (5-6, 2-1 Interstate 8) will move into the consolation bracket with the loss.
“We’ve talked with Ryan throughout his whole career about not thinking too much and letting his brain get in the way,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “We know he’s a really good player and we want him to have confidence in himself. When he saw his first 3-pointer go through the basketball, it was like he couldn’t miss his several shots and we knew it could be a special night for him. He made some nice mid-range shots and he used his length to his advantage.”
While Simmons created problems for the Wauconda defense, Rochelle also had its hands full with two dynamic scorers on the Bulldogs in senior guard Nick Brinias and senior wing forward Griffin Daun, who combined for 53 points in the contest. With Brinias utilizing his quickness off the dribble and Daun capitalizing on mismatches in the man-to-man defense, Wauconda built a 28-20 lead after the first quarter and maintained a sizable advantage at halftime, 42-33.
“We’ve had trouble this season when we’ve had to face really dynamic guards who’re able to make double moves and I thought [Brinias] did that really well tonight,” Thompson said. “[Daun] hurt us more around the rim, but I thought he was able to get us off the dribble and we were caught chasing on defense all of the time. It was one of those situations where we have to be able to sit down and guard while anticipating where the opponents are going to go with the ball.”
Daun led the Bulldogs with 31 points, while Brinias scored 22 points. Despite Wauconda leading for nearly all of the first half, Rochelle opened the third quarter with a 13-4 run, forcing multiple turnovers in the full-court press and scoring easy layups in transition to tie the game at 46-46. But the Bulldog duo of Daun and Brinias proved too tough for the Hubs to contain, as Wauconda rebuilt its lead back to double digits, going ahead by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter.
“I think our kids are buying into how we want to play and I think they’re realizing where they’re going to have the most success,” Thompson said. “I haven’t been super pleased with our ball rotations until these last few games, but we’re getting the ball up the floor and we’re getting shots before the defense can get set. I think we’re struggling when teams are really physical with our guards and we need to stay in transition as much as we can for these next few games.”