DIXON – Four days after losing to Rochelle in the regular-season finale, the Dixon Duchesses changed things up for the regional rematch on Wednesday at Lancaster Gym.
Dropping the man-to-man defense that the Hubs were able to solve on Saturday, the Duchesses used a zone to limit Rochelle in a 44-26 win.
The Duchesses took a 24-15 lead into the second half, but used that lock-down defense to shut the Hubs out entirely over the first 4 minutes of the third quarter. Rochelle turned the ball over on its first five possessions of the half, with Avery Fox and Emily Lynch grabbing steals, Lynch stepping in to take a charge, and Fox grabbing another steal.
“Defensively, we were really looking to communicate, build up some energy as we built up the lead in the third quarter,” Lynch said. “I think with the charge, we all got hyped up. We all got some energy on the floor, and we kept it going.”
Britney Pitzer also had a steal during the run, and Rochelle missed its first four shots from the field in the half. Meanwhile, Dixon got a pair of free throws and a basket in the paint from Zoe Carr, a jumper from Caylyn Kimmel, and a 3-pointer from Pitzer to extend the lead to 33-15.
“We just felt like if we could run them off the 3-point line, make them see more than one person on each catch, they would have a hard time finding their next play,” Dixon coach Luke Ravlin said. “We just got fortunate. We caught them on a cold shooting night.”
Rochelle’s Abby Lundquist had 18 points in Saturday’s win, but in Wednesday’s rematch was limited to three, missing the first 10 shots she took before finally draining a 3-pointer late in the third.
Lynch said limiting Lundquist was where communication on defense came into play.
“With the zone, we really shut her down with her shooting and called out when she was at the top,” Lynch said. “I think it all comes down to communication.”
With Dixon (24-6) in a zone keeping the Hubs from driving to the basket and inviting them to shoot over the Duchess defense, Rochelle shot 9-for-43 from the field in the game.
“They did a great job tonight of packing it in and making sure we shot a contested shot each time,” Rochelle coach Tony Rowan said. “They reacted to where the pass was going, so they keyed in on our shooters. … Every possession needed to be perfect for us. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t perfect.”
Rochelle (12-17) got 15 of its 26 points in the game off of 3-pointers. A Cesca Vardman 3, coupled with a layup from Jacie Wyatt, helped the Hubs build an early 5-2 lead. But Rochelle missed its next five shots from beyond the arc, and finished the game 5-for-21 (24 percent) from 3-point range.
Dixon responded to the early three-point deficit with a 12-2 run to close the first quarter. Carr had a putback and Kimmel added a jumper to give the Duchesses a lead they would never give up. Carr added another basket in the paint, and Kira Goral and Kimmel followed with back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 14-7.
“I think we were just moving the ball really well,” Kimmel said. “Everything was just falling good.”
The lead reached double digits when Kimmel had a steal and a layup, and Abby Guthrie followed with a 3-pointer to make it 19-8.
Kimmel’s five points in that stretch was part of a 14-point night for the freshman sixth-man.
“Caylyn Kimmel is as strong a player as you’re going to see,” Ravlin said. “She was just ready. She had a great couple of practices, just knew it was coming. She’s consistent, and she’s tough.”
Rochelle got back within six thanks to 3-pointers from Vardman and Morgan Baker, but Fox responded with a 3-pointer of her own to close the half.
Carr finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
3A Dixon Regional semifinal
Dixon 44, Rochelle 26
Star of the game: Caylin Kimmel, Dixon, 14 points
Key performers: Zoe Carr, Dixon, 12 points, 9 rebounds; Kira Goral, Dixon, 5 points 10 rebounds; Morgan Baker, Rochelle, 10 points
Up next: 3A Dixon Regional championship game, Dixon vs. Rockford Lutheran, 7 p.m. Friday