ROCHELLE — Not many teams in the state of Illinois can slow down Geneseo standout Isaiah Rivera. When the Rochelle varsity boys basketball team hosted the Maple Leafs for conference bragging rights Friday evening, Rivera proved once again to be quite the handful.
The Geneseo guard single-handedly stole the show in the third quarter, scoring 17 of his game-high 39 points to bring the Maple Leafs within one point of Rochelle entering the fourth quarter. But the Hubs wouldn’t be denied in the end, as the purple and white rallied behind senior forward Johnny Beck, who finished two critical 3-point plays in the final minutes to lift Rochelle over Geneseo by a score of 71-68.
Beck scored 32 points for the Hubs, who are now 8-10 overall and who will carry their four-game winning streak into Yorkville this weekend. Junior Seth Gould and sophomore Garrett Burdin each totaled 12 points, with Burdin sinking two free throws in the late seconds of the fourth quarter to extend Rochelle’s lead.
“Johnny’s one of the greatest scorers I’ve seen in my 20 years here,” head coach Tim Thompson said. “Isaiah Rivera’s a Division I talent… He has such great body control, and both he and Johnny are such tough players. They went after each other, and Isaiah was tough for us to handle, but I’m sure Geneseo would say the same about Johnny.”
Rochelle caught fire from 3-point land in the first half, with Burdin making two 3-pointers and both senior Kaleb Ackland and junior Landan Martin hitting one. The Hubs led Geneseo 22-14 after one quarter before Rivera brought the Maple Leafs back in the second quarter, running his scoring total up to 18 first-half points and cutting Rochelle’s lead to 40-33 by halftime.
Rivera continued to dominate in the third quarter, slicing through the Rochelle defense several times for layups and finishing shots through contact on occasion. A strong dunk by the Geneseo guard brought the crowd to its feet, and as the fouls piled up on the Rochelle side, Geneseo made its way back to being down 57-56 entering the fourth quarter.
“What’s so difficult about playing Isaiah is his ability to attack in transition,” Thompson said. “He’s a much better athlete than anybody else on the floor, and he has such great body control. He’s shooting the ball better than he did last year and it’s just really, really difficult to handle him.”
Geneseo took a slim lead in the fourth quarter, with the Maple Leafs leading 63-61 before Rochelle called timeout. Junior Austin Brown carved through the Geneseo defense for a layup through contact that tied the game 63-63, and after the Maple Leafs jumped ahead again, Beck’s first 3-point play with 1:13 remaining gave the Hubs a 66-65 advantage.
Beck’s second 3-point play put Rochelle up 69-67 with 30.7 seconds remaining, and after Rivera made 1-of-2 free throws on the other end, Burdin drew contact and sunk two free throws, which were the final two points of the game.