SPOTLIGHT ON ...
Hiawatha, senior, center
Ross recorded a double-double – scoring 11 points and pulling down 12 rebounds – before fouling out late in the fourth quarter of Hiawatha’s 44-43 win over Leland-Earlville on Friday.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Hinckley-Big Rock at Kaneland, 7 p.m. today
The Royals, never a team to shy away from tough competition, take on a Kaneland team that has had some trouble to begin the year, but the Knights should provide a firm test.
Kaneland at DeKalb, 7 p.m. Friday
The first of two Northern Illinois Big 12 East matchups between the rivals. Both teams have struggled in the early going and a conference victory before the holiday tournaments could provide a spark to either squad.
1. Hinckley-Big Rock (6-1, 1-0 Little Ten): The Royals’ big win over Mooseheart sets them up as the conference favorite.
2. Indian Creek (7-1, 2-0 LTC): The Timberwolves have shown a solid inside-out offensive attack this season.
3. Genoa-Kingston (6-1, 1-0 Big Northern East): The Cogs can score with any team in the area.
4. Sycamore (5-2, 2-0 NI Big 12 East): After finishing at the bottom of the Northern Illinois Big 12 last year, the Spartans have won their first two league contests.
5. DeKalb (1-6, 1-1 NI Big 12 East): The Barbs have struggled while getting its full lineup together.
6. Kaneland (1-4, 1-1 NI Big 12 East): The Knights sorely miss the presence of injured point guard Drew David.
7. Hiawatha (2-5, 1-0 LTC): The Hawks look to turn the corner after losing five of their first six games.
NOTEBOOK: Void opens door for others at G-K
The Genoa-Kingston boys basketball team came into the season lacking a dominant big man.
That problem was only exacerbated when Sal Lopez missed the first five games of the season. But his absence opened the door for others to contribute.
“We got to look at some other guys in the post during those first five games,” G-K coach Corey Jenkins said. “Different guys gave us good minutes throughout those first five games.”
Among that group were Gabe Williams and Danny Hansen. Jenkins said Williams stood out for his defense inside while Hansen was able to provide some key points around the rim. They have helped G-K to a 6-1 start.
G-K’s ability to score was evident after an 85-80 win over Rockford Christian Life in the Cogs’ season opener. But Jenkins would like to see improvement on the other end of the floor.
“We want to try and find our identity, whether it’s offensively or defensively,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think we are quite there yet defensively. We are getting better, but there are things we have to improve on.”
Depth carries Indian Creek
The Timberwolves haven’t had their full complement of players for many games this season. Yet Indian Creek is off to a solid start, posting a 7-1 mark, including 2-0 in the Little Ten Conference.
“I’ve been really pleased with the start,” Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz said. “We’re doing some good things as a team, both offensive and defensively. One of the strengths has been, whether guys are sick or injured, we’re having other guys step up.”
The Timberwolves will have to survive a little longer as Jake Bjorneby broke his wrist a week ago against Milledgeville and will be sidelined at least until after Christmas.
Canchola steps in as PG
Hiawatha’s Pancho Garcia is in Mexico for a couple weeks playing soccer, leaving a void at the starting point guard spot.
Ed Canchola, normally more of a wing player, has stepped in for the Hawks. He helped Hiawatha to a 44-43 win over Leland-Earl-ville last week.
“His vision has gotten much better,” Hiawatha coach Danny Klein said. “He does drive and kick out instead of forcing shots now. When Pancho comes back, I’ll have some depth in the backcourt, which will be very nice.”
Hiawatha also is expecting contributions from Mike Mercado, who recently joined the team. Mercado was the Hawks’ starting quarterback during the football season.
VIEWS: Royals show guts in impressive comeback win
Hinckley-Big Rock was done. Finished.
Or so I thought.
Down by 10 points to Moose-heart with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Royals answered with one of the more remarkable comebacks I’ve seen at a high school basketball game, as H-BR fought back for a 58-51 victory.
The Royals’ rally was impressive not only because of the opponent – a quality Mooseheart team that likely features the most height of any Class 1A team in the state – but also because of the atmosphere and circumstances.
Because of the drama surrounding three Mooseheart players, who previously were ruled ineligible by the IHSA, every seat in Hinckley’s tiny gym was occupied by raucous fans from both sides, giving Wednesday’s game the feel of a sectional final.
“They handled it like a bunch of champs,” H-BR coach Bill Sambrookes said Wednesday. “And I think Mooseheart handled it like a bunch of champs. All the players kept all the peripheral stuff out of here. They were awesome.”
H-BR came into the season with high expectations. Returning every starter from last season’s team that made the sectional finals, the Royals were looking at another deep run in the state playoffs.
The Royals’ senior core, most of whom also helped lead H-BR’s soccer team a third-place finish at state this fall, responded under pressure. Jared Madden and Bernie Conley consistently hit big shots down the stretch.
If coaches want early season games to test the makeup and character of their teams, Sambrookes had to like what he saw Wednesday.
“We came out here and showed them we were the better team,” H-BR senior Zach Michels said. “I wanted to play the best and beat the best.”
• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.