By Trenten Scheidegger

Jaxon Diedrich, of Pecatoncia, gets some help from his teammates after making a tough play.

    Over the years, the Pecatonica Indians boys’ basketball team has been one of the best in the area. They continued to prove that statement true with another dominant victory on Jan. 29.

    The Durand Bulldogs have been on a completely different ride. After retooling the coaching staff, the Bulldogs have been trying to rebuild their program into something that is not only successful, but sustainable. In some ways, the Bulldogs have met the early parts of their long-term goals with them getting off to a 15-8 start to the season.

    Although the Bulldogs are probably satisfied with their start to the season, they recently went through an injury bug, which derailed them for a time. Durand suffered five consecutive losses, including one to Pecatonica on Jan. 29. Although Pecatonica came into the matchup as the favorites at 19-4, it’s fair to assume the Bulldogs were hoping to showcase their improvement against an impressive team.

    From the first tip, Durand’s struggles were showing. Meanwhile, the Pecatonica offense couldn’t miss as they got off to an incredible start. Seven different Indians scored in the opening quarter as it felt like they couldn’t miss.

    Cooper Hoffman had a trio of early baskets, while Drew Williams hit a three-pointer on his way to five opening quarter points. Brody Black matched him with a big corner three of his own. Jaxon Diedrich attacked the defense, getting to the line and hitting two of his four attempts. Diedrich had four in the quarter, as did Jordan Gassman. Mason Peterson and Joshua Jennings also scored in the quarter.

    Early on, it felt like the Bulldogs faced an insurmountable lead. Pecatonica jumped out to a massive 19-4 advantage in the first minutes of the game. If it weren’t for a couple of three-pointers from Caden Barthel, things could have really gotten out of hand. Ethan Rager added a pair of baskets in the first, but the Bulldogs were left trailing 28-10 after one.

    The second quarter only saw Pecatonica’s lead grow. Black and Williams got the quarter started with back-to-back three-pointers. Durand responded with a three of their own from Nathan Folk, but the Indians immediately answered. This time, it was Peterson who sunk a three-pointer – the Indians couldn’t be stopped.

    Later in the quarter, Diedrich picked up an assist when he hit Peterson for another three. Shortly after, Diedrich facilitated another big play as he grabbed a rebound and launched a full court pass to Peterson under the hoop. Peterson threw it back to Gassman, who hit a tough layup to go up 50-18.

    By the break, this one was well in control as the Indians held a giant 53-22 lead over Durand.

    Pecatonica and Durand are two teams that are incredibly familiar with each other. Many of the basketball players just got done playing a full football season together on the Du-Pec Rivermen co-op team just last fall. Hoffman, the team’s quarterback, is especially familiar with some of the guys on Durand’s side. He spent a good chunk of his time handing the ball off and throwing passes to guys like Folk and Max Millbrath. Connor and Brayden Hughes also played vital roles for the Rivermen.

    Hoffman was asked what it’s like to have to switch from playing with Durand in fall sports to playing against them in the winter. As the leader on the gridiron and on the basketball court, Hoffman gave an answer that displayed much more than just a competitive desire. “It’s fun for us, competitive wise,” he shared. “Everyone on that team, either Durand or Pec, when it’s fall, we’re all still brothers at the end of the day. We still love each other. We flip to basketball and, for two games out of the season we have to be competitive with them. Otherwise, we’re trying to cheer them on. We always want to watch them succeed, especially since we know what they are putting in. The work they are putting in throughout the offense with us. It’s always fun playing against them.”

    The second half of the game was just a matter of running the clock. The Indians continued to put the game out of reach as Jennings hit a pair of big three-pointers. Hoffman had a big fourth quarter with a three-pointer of his own as he put up eight points. Williams went two for two at the line as Pecatonica outscored Durand 23-16 in the quarter.

    In the end, the Indians picked up their 20th victory of the season with an 80-46 victory over Durand. Pecatonica was led in scoring by Hoffman, who put up 16. Black was close behind with 14, however, and Gassman had 12. Williams was the fourth in double figures with 10, and the trio of Diedrich, Jennings, and Peterson finished with eight. Durand was led by Barthel, who finished with 18. Folk was the next leading scorer with 12, and Zhane Sheldon had seven in the loss.

    With Pecatonica improving to 20-4 on the year, their few losses have come in postseason like atmospheres. Hoffman was asked about the team facing tougher competition, and if they had played up to their own expectations. “Some games we’ve made it there. I think there is obviously still room for improvement. Throughout the year, you’re always trying to get better and trying to play your best basketball at the very end of the year and make our run. I feel like we still have some room to grow, especially on the defensive, taking care of the ball, and rebounding,” he concluded with.

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