PLANO – Matt Limbrunner wasn't used to losing as a member of the Kaneland boys basketball team.
The Knights had won consistently during his first three years of high school, so all the senior knew was success. But after a rough start to the season this year, the senior forward wasn't surprised that the Knights were seeded 11th at the Plano Christmas Tournament.
“It's tough, but we saw it coming,” Limbrunner said. “We started the season 0-3, it's there. A lot of teams here have a better record.”
While the Knights' seed represents their past, Limbrunner hopes his team's 47-29 win against sixth-seeded Lisle in the tournament's Round of 16 on on Wednesday was a sign of things to come.
The Knights are a completely different team from their sluggish start, when they were adjusting to an almost entirely new starting lineup and third-year starting point guard Drew David was sidelined with a wrist injury.
With David back, the Knights rolled to their fourth straight win on Wednesday. The streak included an opening round win at Plano on Saturday against Sandwich.
“We didn't have that point guard there [early in the season], the leader, and we hadn't been playing together very long,” Limbrunner said. “We had some tough games, but right now we're playing really well.”
The Knights will continue their run at 7 p.m. tonight in the tournament's quarterfinals against Newark.
After a tight first quarter on Wednesday, the Knights led 21-14 at the half behind a three-headed scoring attack from Limbrunner, John Pruett, and Ty Carlson, who scored all of Kaneland's first half points.
The Knights held Lisle to four points in the third quarter, and Limbrunner, Pruett, and Carlson, who scored all but three of Kaneland's points, kept up their consistent scoring clip to give Kaneland a 16-point lead heading into the fourth.
“[Pruett and Limbrunner] do really well together,” Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said. “They were two guys who, when Drew was out, were able to fight through that a little bit. Matt had some big minutes for us last year, he's a senior, and these are the things we're expecting him to do.”
Limbrunner scored a game-high 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. Johnson knows that the 6-foot-4 senior's evolution this season has been critical to Kaneland's success.
“He's coming into his own. He's smart and strong and he's not afraid to mix it up with guys who are two or three inches bigger than him,” Johnson said. “He's just more confident, he's not afraid to shoot. Last year, he deferred a lot. … And now he's going into that leadership role. He knows he needs to take shots and come through, and he's doing a good job.”
The Knights still have issues, including a thin bench and modest experience. But with David easing his way back into form and Limbrunner's confidence rising, the Knights figure to improve as the season goes on.
“We're a good team, but we didn't show that at the beginning of the year,” Pruett said. “I think it's starting to show now. We're getting to where we should be.”