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The Insider: Boys Basketball

Morris’ Ben Ortiz (34) pressures Sycamore’s Devin Mottet (right) late during the fourth quarter in the Spartans’ 41-39 loss Friday in Sycamore.
Morris’ Ben Ortiz (34) pressures Sycamore’s Devin Mottet (right) late during the fourth quarter in the Spartans’ 41-39 loss Friday in Sycamore.

Spartans look to fix late-game issues

After a quick start to the season, some late-game issues plagued Sycamore over the holiday break.

The Spartans lost three of their past four games despite holding fourth-quarter leads in each contest. Sycamore coach Andrew Stacy said opponents’ pressure defense have given the Spartans trouble in the final eight minutes.

“The biggest thing has just been we’re just making bad passes and getting a little bit rushed, going a little bit faster than we want to in certain situations,” Stacy said. “A lot of them are unforced errors. We’re panicking a little bit and not executing as well as we can.

“For the most part we’ve done really well when teams have pressed us, the last couple games we’ve struggled.”

With only one game – Friday against Burlington Central – in a stretch of 13 days, Sycamore will have plenty of time to fix the issues before resuming Northern Illinois Big 12 East play.

“We’re doing a lot of good things,” Stacy said. “We feel that we have let some games slip through our fingers. It’s a matter of going through these learning processes and road blocks along the way.

Royals preaching defense

Hinckley-Big Rock coach Bill Sambrookes has been emphasizing defense lately, having his Royals go hard on the defensive end in practice. One thing he’s preaching is movement.

Sambrookes doesn’t want his team standing flat-footed when it comes to help defense.

“A lot of times the help-side, and this is not just my team, but the help-side sometimes when you’re three passes away has the tendency to stand straight up, put the arms straight down and go flat-footed,” Sambrookes said after his team’s 51-40 win over Genoa-Kingsotn on Tuesday. “And then you’ve got to react before you can move. So we’ve been working hard on that help-side stuff.”

• Steve Nitz contributed to this report.

VIEWS: What to look forward to in 2nd half of season

We’re about halfway through the season with holiday tournaments distinctly behind us and the back half of conference play getting started.

A number of storylines for the year have already developed so here are five things to look for in the upcoming weeks:

Can DeKalb turn it around?: It hasn’t been the easiest couple months for DeKalb, which just lost another close game to Dixon at home on Tuesday. The Barbs have the talent to be the best team in the Northern Illinois Big 12, but can’t seem to play with consistency.

If they get things figured out quickly, DeKalb could still be in the hunt for another conference crown.

Where do Sycamore, Kaneland stand in the NI Big 12?: Sycamore surprised many with a quick start to the 2012-13 season. Sparked by some improved depth, the Spartans handed the Knights their only conference loss of the year.

Meanwhile, Kaneland has been playing well since the return of point guard Drew David and sits atop the NI Big 12 standings with a 3-1 record.

Will Hinckley-Big Rock win another Little Ten title?: With their senior core returning for another season, the Royals were the preseason favorites to win the conference again, and they’ve backed up the hype with a stellar first half.

Coach Bill Sambrookes called Tuesday’s win over Genoa-Kingston the biggest of the season. I will disagree and point to the Royals’ victory over Mooseheart, but nonetheless, H-BR looks poised to once again come out on top of the Little Ten.

Will the real Indian Creek please stand up?: The Timberwolves started off the season playing solid basketball and recorded some nice results in the early going. However, an 0-4 showing at the Plano Christmas Classic may have some doubting whether Indian Creek is a legitimate contender.

Indian Creek is still 3-0 in the Little Ten and a showdown with H-BR looms next week.

Will anyone stand out as the area’s POY?: At the midway point, the race for the Daily Chronicle Player of the Year is wide open. And a lot of it has to do with the depth and balance of many of the area’s teams.

Much of it could come down to which teams find ways to pull out conference victories in the second half of the season, but I wouldn’t discount a handful of breakout performances happening sometime between now and the postseason.

• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via e-mail at and you can follow him on Twitter @RossJacobson

Spotlight on...

Zach Michels, senior forward, Hinckley-Big Rock

Michels often gets lost in the shuffle because of the Royals' exceptional guard tandem in Jared Madden and Bernie Conley. But the senior forward came through with 11 big points in H-BR's win over Genoa-Kingston on Tuesday.

What to watch for

Rochelle at Kaneland, 7 p.m., tonight

Kaneland is fresh off a promising fourth-place showing at the Plano Christmas Classic. Can the Knights carry that momentum into the second half of conference play?

Burlington Central at Sycamore, 7 p.m., Friday

The Spartans come off a couple of disappointing losses in close games. Burlington provides a tough non-conference opponent and a win could set Sycamore back in the right direction.

Power Rankings
1. Hinckley-Big Rock (13-3, 2-0 Little Ten) Huge win on the road over Genoa-Kingston.
2. Kaneland (8-6, 3-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) Knights starting to find stride since Drew David’s return.
3. Sycamore (9-7, 2-2 NI Big 12 East) Fourth-quarter woes cost Spartans couple games recently.
4. Genoa-Kingston (10-6, 2-2 Big Northern Conference East) Cogs won three straight before loss to Royals.
5. Indian Creek (9-6, 3-0 LTC) Timberwolves have gone through rough stretch since winter break started.
6. DeKalb (4-12, 2-3 NI Big 12 East) Barbs beat Rochelle then fell to Dixon at home.
7. Hiawatha (3-10, 1-1 LTC) Nice win over Milledgeville on Monday.

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