PLANO – Brian Johnson's instructions echo through most anywhere, but in a sparsely filled gym on Saturday afternoon, the Kaneland boys basketball coach sounded especially emphatic.
"Too much standing!" and "Shorten passes!" were among his suggestions in the first few minutes of Kaneland's Plano Christmas Classic opener against Sandwich. As the Knights followed them toward a 52-31 victory, the need for any further urgency evaporated.
Kaneland emphasized a fluid yet patient attack in improving to 4-4. The Indians (1-5) trailed by as many as 23 points down the stretch, as the Knights routinely found them out of defensive position.
"When we reversed it a couple times, we had some nice driving lanes, and since some of our shots weren't falling early, we just crashed the boards and scored inside," Kaneland junior guard Tyler Carlson said.
Or got fouled. The Knights converted 18 of 21 free throws, led by a 6-for-6 effort from junior forward John Pruett.
"They worked harder. They had more of a will to win, and we had a lot of fouls, too," Sandwich guard Liam Crotty said. "It was a 16:5 ratio at one point, and then they made a lot of free throws."
Crotty scored the Indians' first six points before cooling off and finishing with a team-high eight.
Sandwich shot just 12 for 41 (29 percent) from the field. Kaneland countered with a 17 for 42 showing, good for 40.5 percent.
Knights senior Dan Miller, a 6-foot-2 wing, shined throughout the game in his face-guarding of Indians forward and top scorer Seth McDonald. McDonald attempted just four field goals and scored each of his five points after halftime, when the outcome already was in hand.
Johnson called Miller's intensity partially a product of "drills we don't like doing." Carlson, who occasionally draws Miller as his defender in practice, could elaborate.
"Dan talks a lot. He helps out his teammates a lot," Carlson said. "He's talking and he knows how to get under other guys' skin."
Carlson scored a career-high 14 points to lead three Knights in double figures. Pruett (12) and Matt Limbrunner (11) were the others.
Although Kaneland finished 0 for 9 from long range, its misses mattered less when the team kept moving on offense and shortened its passes.
Just like its coach suggested.
"We wanted to work inside-out. Sometimes we settle a bit too much for 3s, and when we're not hitting, we're struggling," Johnson said. "They want to play fast, Sandwich does, and they got us playing a little bit fast at certain points in the game. We just had to settle down and work on getting the ball in and scoring that way."
Kaneland advanced to face sixth-seeded Lisle at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.