SOUTH BELOIT -Victor Ortega firmly embraced the 'next man up' mentality for South Beloit Friday night.
The junior guard, starting in place of senior Cortez Johnson, burned visiting Alden-Hebron for 20 points and 10 rebounds in the SoBos' 54-36 victory.
Johnson, who was out due to a family function, has been the year-long starter and a stalwart in the SoBos attack. Ortega has been waiting for his chance to shine, and took full advantage against the Giants.
"He had a really good game," South Beloit coach Matt Stucky said. "He's always been a good scorer. For him, it's all about the little things. It's been adjusting to the varsity level, the speed of the game and realizing that every little thing matters. He's figuring things out. He played a lot of JV last year, but got some varsity experience. It's just a matter of time. He's a really good shooter, and did a great job on the boards for us, too."
Ortega was pleased about his contribution, which included a pair of 3-pointers.
"I knew with Cortez out, that I'd have to step it up," Ortega said. "Once I hit my first couple of shots, that gave me a lot of energy and confidence. And the fans were great, too. I heard them cheering for me the whole game."
It was a cruise-control kind of night for the SoBos, who led 16-4 after the first quarter and 32-15 at halftime, giving Stucky plenty of opportunity to use his bench. He went to a five-in, five-out substitution pattern in the second half and was impressed by what his bench players offered.
"With Cortez out, we brought up a couple of JV players to get some time," Stucky said. "Caleb Richards and John Lynde both got some time. They work really hard in practice and bring great energy, so it was nice to be able to get them some minutes. And when they did play, they played very well."
The victory allowed the SoBos to get above .500 at 8-7 on the season, and Stucky said for the most part he feels good about where his team is.
"I thought he we played our best game defensively all season earlier this week against Galena," Stucky said. "We didn't really back that up tonight, but we did what we needed to. There aren't many games when I look back on the season that I feel like we really gave away. There are some where we didn't play as well as I'd hoped, but we've been competitive in every one of them. We've got a tough stretch coming up, so we'll need to play well as we head into February and the playoffs."
Although Ortega was the only SoBos in double figures, Cole Ayotte nearly got there with nine points and Nolen Rogers finished with eight. Leading scorer Miles Beckham didn't have to carry a big scoring load, finishing with four points, but he grabbed his usual slew of rebounds while playing solid defensively.
• UP NEXT: The SoBos will be back in action Tuesday when they travel to Arlington Heights to face Christian Liberty.
• FRIDAY'S BOXSCORE: South Beloit 54, Alden-Hebron 36.
Alden-Hebron 4 11 11 10- 36
South Beloit 16 16 9 13- 54
Alden-Hebron: Ellison 3 2-2 8, Webber 3 0-0 8, Gaddini 0 2-2 2, Elswick 1 0-0 3, Nielsen 1 0-0 2, Gritmacker 0 2-2 2, Cunningham 4 0-1 8. Totals: 12 6-7 36.
South Beloit: Hernandez 2 2-2 6, Ayotte 3 2-2 9, Rogers 2 3-5 8, Ortega 8 2-2 20, Balderas 1 0-0 2, Beckham 1 2-4 2, Knepper 2 1-4 5. Totals: 19 12-19 54.
3-pointers: South Beloit 4: Ayotte, Rogers, Ortega 2); Alden-Hebron 6 (Ellison 3, Webber 2, Elswick) Total fouls: South Beloit 13, Alden-Hebron 15.