Byron High School

Boys Basketball: Tucker shines as Byron handles Rochelle

Senior guard scores 41 points as Tigers take season finale 87-65


ROCHELLE — Byron senior Ryan Tucker has enjoyed a stellar season on the hardwood. The standout guard has eclipsed multiple school records, setting a new mark for career 3-pointers made and breaking a nearly 70-year-old career scoring record set by Marvin Dennis in 1956.

Tucker added to his decorated senior season on Thursday, scoring a team-high 41 points as the Tigers capped off a tremendous 2023-24 regular season with an 87-65 road win over Rochelle. Fresh off clinching the Big Northern Conference crown, Byron (25-2, 8-1 BNC) heads into the postseason having won each of its last four games. The Tigers will gear up for the IHSA 2A Genoa-Kingston Regional as the No. 1 seed, with their first game scheduled for Wednesday.

“We wanted to have a good finish to our season and we knew that, as long as we came out here and played as a team, we’d be alright,” Tucker said. “My teammates trusted me tonight and it felt good to put the ball in the hoop. My senior season is something I was thinking about all summer after we were beaten in the regional championship last season. It all leads back to my  teammates because they’re pushing me everyday and they make things easier out here.”

Rochelle (10-21, 3-7 Interstate 8) had no answer for Tucker, who drained a game-high 15 field goals including 12 in the first half, where the 6-foot-3 senior guard nailed six 3-pointers. Byron drilled open shots and created transition scoring chances on the defensive end of the floor, generating deflections and forcing errant passes that led to turnovers and easy layups.

“This was a good team for us to play because [Rochelle] can score the basketball,” Byron head coach Matt Huels said. “The two teams we could see in the regional, Marian Central Catholic or Johnsburg, can both score the basketball. We have to be able to contest shooters, which Rochelle has plenty of, and we have to be able to dictate the pace of the game. We’ve done that over the last four or five games. This team’s extremely talented and they can go a long way.”

The Tigers took control of the game right away, scoring 13 unanswered points with Tucker leading the charge to start the first quarter. Despite efforts from junior guard Cayden Moore and freshman forward Brody Bruns, who each put home a trio of baskets in the opening quarter, Rochelle was unable to muster enough defensive stops to keep pace with the Tigers, who held a 35-18 lead after the first quarter and ballooned their lead to 60-34 at the halftime buzzer.

“Brody’s been a pleasant surprise for us all season long and we’ve continued to ask for more and more out of him,” Rochelle head coach Tim Thompson said. “He’s been a varsity player the entire year and he’s been fantastic. I wouldn’t doubt if he’s an All-Conference player this year.”

Although Tucker stole the show for the Tigers offensively, Byron finished with eight players in the scoring column. Sophomores Caden Considine and Cason Newton totaled 11 points and 10 points, respectively, as the Tigers forced a running clock with an 83-49 lead after three quarters. Rochelle will enter the postseason on a six-game losing streak, but the Hubs can snap their skid with a win in the IHSA 3A Boylan Regional, where the No. 5 Hubs will face No. 3 Woodstock.

“I think the kids are beaten down right now and we need a good day off to watch some film and get our bodies healthy,” Thompson said. “We need four good days of practice and then prepare the best way we can and take away what [Woodstock] is good at… 0-0 is the mindset that we have to live by right now and Woodstock is coming with 20 wins this year… I think the last few games have been discouraging for our kids, but we have to get as healthy as we can.”

Byron, meanwhile, will be seeking its first regional championship since the 2017-18 season, when the Tigers finished 24-7 under former head coach Tom Schmidt. Byron entered Thursday’s game against the Hubs ranked No. 7 in Class 2A by the Associated Press. The Tigers have just two losses, one of which is to No. 2 ranked Beecher, who’s 30-0.

“I think our kids can go a long way,” Huels said. “It will be about executing down the stretch and getting stops when we need them. They have all the talent in the world, but they’ll need to earn their way through. We’ve been able to guard in a lot of different ways. We played some zone and we pressed tonight, but sometimes we’ll play man-to-man. We can run a variety of defenses and we can score in different ways. Ryan had 41 tonight, but Jack [Hiveley] can carry us, Cason can carry us and Carson [Buser] can carry us, which makes us a very difficult team to guard.”

Bruns led the Hubs with a 17-point, 15-rebound double-double on Thursday, while Moore finished with 10 points and junior guard Carson Lewis totaled nine points on three 3-pointers. Senior guard Eli Luxton chipped in nine points and nine rebounds for the Hubs in the loss.