Boys basketball: Martin Ledbetter, Hinckley-Big Rock dominate boards against Indian Creek for Little 10 tourney win

Hinckley-Big Rock's Martin Ledbetter shoots over Indian Creek's Tyler Bogle during their game Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, in the Little 10 Conference Basketball Tournament at Somonauk High School.

SOMONAUK – The Hinckley-Big Rock boys basketball team took a first step toward doing something it hasn’t done in a decade Tuesday: winning the Little Ten Conference Tournament.

The No. 2 Royals knocked off Indian Creek 71-36 in the quarterfinals and will face Earlville in Thursday’s semifinals. A win would send H-BR to its first title game since 2016 – and keep alive a shot at its first title since 2013.

Sweetening the pot is a potential title-game showdown with No. 1 Serena, which beat the Royals (20-6) on a last-second shot last week.

“We’re focused on Thursday, but we want to beat [Serena],” said H-BR post Martin Ledbetter, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds in the win Tuesday. “We’re excited for the game on Friday, and whatever they bring we’ll be ready.”

The Royals were locked in Tuesday against the Timberwolves (8-17), building a 24-5 lead and never leading by less than 27 in the second half. They were able to dominate the boards, outrebounding the Timberwolves 41-20 for the game and 16-4 on the offensive glass.

It wasn’t just Ledbetter. Landon Roop had 10 rebounds to go with 15 points, and Max Hintzche had six rebounds in an 11-point effort.

“I felt like in the first quarter we were doing a better job of [rebounding],” Indian Creek coach Nolan Govig said. “Later in the game, when you have to double one person to rebound, that’s going to open up other guys as well. That was difficult, creating lanes for some other guys.”

Sam Genslinger led the Timberwolves with 12 points, while Jeffrey Probst added 11 points and five rebounds. Jakob McNally had a team-best seven rebounds.

The Royals struggled early from 3-point range but started working the ball inside more instead of firing up more 3s. Coach Seth Sanderson said that was an encouraging sign his team is maturing.

“We tried to make sure we played with tempo and control the offensive and defensive glass,” Sanderson said. “I thought we did a nice job rebounding. We didn’t shoot it great, but we made up for it with the offensive rebounding.”

Sanderson said the coaches always focus on the process over specific results, in hopes that the one-game-at-a-time message is well received by the players in situations like Thursday, when the Royals will have to beat Earlville to qualify for the championship game.

“We’ve tried to plant that seed early so when we get to something like this it’s a little more ingrained to them,” Sanderson said. “The biggest thing is you don’t get the chance to play them again if you don’t take care of business on Thursday.”

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