Hinckley-Big Rock, senior, guard It was Paver’s turn to lead the Royals in scoring in last Friday’s 38-21 win over Hiawatha. The junior put up nine points and has been a steady, veteran influence for the Royals all year.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR...
DeKalb at Montini, Saturday, 4:30 p.m The Barbs hope to prove themselves against the 2012 Class 3A champions after a tough loss against Class 4A defending champion Whitney Young early in the season.
Genoa-Kingston at Indian Creek, Saturday, 5 p.m. In the first leg of a boy-girl double-header, Indian Creek’s strong inside presence will have a handful with G-K post player Andrea Strohmaier..
Rochelle at Kaneland, Tuesday, 7 p.m. Two contenders in the NI Big 12 East meet early next week.
1. DeKalb (15-2, 4-0 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) The Barbs had a week of rest before a tough weekend slate against Rochelle and 2012 Class 3A champion Montini.
2. Kaneland (9-5, 2-2 NI Big 12 East) Kaneland hopes to turn things around after a tough stretch of games heading into Christmas.
3. Sycamore (5-6, 0-3 NI Big 12 East) The Spartans re-open the NI Big 12 East slate against Morris today.
4. Hinckley-Big Rock (8-8, 4-0 Little Ten Conference) The Royals face a tough stretch run with games against top conference teams.
5. Hiawatha (6-8, 1-2 LTC) The Hawks had a tough one against H-BR at Prophetstown but hope for a strong finish in LTC play.
6. Indian Creek (6-8, 2-3 LTC) The Timberwolves had a strong run in the Amboy Tournament.
7. Genoa-Kingston (2-12, 0-3 Big Northern Conference East) The Cogs play Richmond-Burton and Indian Creek this weekend.
NOTES: Knights look to regroup after tough tournament
Losses have a way of making teams reflect on themselves.
During its 7-0 start to the season, Kaneland didn’t have many flaws revealed. But in losing five of their last seven against tough opponents, including two losses to DeKalb and two at the Ottawa Tournament, the Knights need to regroup.
“I don’t think we’re content with going 2-2 [at the Ottawa Tournament],” Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said. “You learn in every game, win or lose, but we’re probably more critical of ourselves when we lose.”
Opponents have only scored 40 points twice against the Knights, but Kaneland has struggled for consistency on the offensive end.
“We’ve got to hit shots more consistently,” Colombe said. “To go along with that, we’ve got to take care of the ball. If we take care of the ball, we’re going to be tough to beat. On nights we don’t take care of the ball, we’re going to have a tough time beating people. Our strength is definitely defense.”
Royals turn focus back to conference play: One day after handling Hiawatha in Friday’s 38-21 win at the Prophetstown Tournament last weekend, H-BR lost to Orion, 59-39, in the third-place game.
Coach Greg Burks was disappointed that the Royals didn’t compete on Saturday.
“We don’t want to come back at the end of the day and say, ‘That was a good team and they beat us by 20, what’s the difference if we lost by 20 and if we lost by 10,’” coach Greg Burks said. “The answer is everything. If somebody beats you, you want it to be because you gave it your best shot and they were better than you.”
That two-day stretch encapsulated the Royals’ season. H-BR has been successful against LTC opponents, but has struggled against nonconference foes.
“We have a little more confidence in those games due to the familiarity,” Burks said. “Hopefully we can regroup. We had a decent stretch before Christmas, but we still have a good record in conference.”
DeKalb fresh heading into big weekend: Coach Chris Davenport gave his team a four-day break after DeKalb lost, 39-32, to Wheaton-Warrenville South on Dec. 21.
Davenport could tell his team was wearing down after several close games, in which he used a six-player rotation. With Christmas coming up, Davenport decided to give his team the extra days off.
“I just knew we were tired,” Davenport said. “Those kids are beat up and they’re tired, and they verbalized to me. It was obvious.”
After the break, Davenport said he moved into early-season mode, drilling his team on fundamentals as they prepare for conference rival Rochelle on Friday and Class 3A defending champion Montini.
“We gradually built them back up, and on [Thursday], we were doing quite a bit more than we were doing last week,” Davenport said. “Fundamentally, it’s just stuff that you’ve got to work on.”
VIEWS: Holiday tournaments beneficial for teams' focus
The holiday season comes at a strange time for high school basketball.
Teams begin their conference season just a few weeks before Christmas rolls around, and it’s easy for players to lose focus.
That’s why holiday tournaments are beneficial. Each team is dealing with the holiday interrupting their season. Instead of shoving conference games into the middle of break, teams play in a self-contained tournament to keep their minds on basketball without having to play all-important conference games.
At the midway point in the season, teams get to judge themselves against teams outside of their conference.
“You get to see some different teams, you play a lot of games in a short amount of time,” Colombe said. “The holiday games pop up during winter break, almost at the midpoint of the season to gauge where you’re at, where you want to be, and what you have to do to get there.”
There are drawbacks to the traditional format of games coming before and after Christmas Eve. Players are heading into or coming off of a few days of not having practice, so it’s difficult to predict how teams will come out.
“I know it’s a challenge just to change the routine,” Burks said. “It’s not a normal day where you go home, catch a bus and go to the game. It’s a situation where maybe you have a couple of days off of practice, you play several games with a short tournament, and you put in a lot of travel. If you’re not 100 percent ready to get on the floor and get the job done, things can turn bad pretty quick.”
It’s better that the unpredictability comes during a self-contained tournament than during the conference season.