SPOTLIGHT ON ...
Indian Creek, senior, forward Thuestad scored 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a 43-32 win over Pecatonica on Monday. The Timberwolves dominated the boards, with Samantha Mosley and Josie Diehl each grabbing double-digit rebounds.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Kaneland at Yorkville, 7 p.m. today
Kaneland will be tested against one of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East’s top teams.
DeKalb at Sycamore, 7 p.m. Thursday Sycamore coach Brett Goff hopes the relaxed environment at home will help the Spartans improve from their loss to the Barbs at the NIU Convocation Center.
1. DeKalb (21-3, 8-0 NI Big 12 East): The Barbs showed once again that they’re a cut above the rest of the area teams by beating Sycamore, 36-18, on Jan. 25. 2. Kaneland (12-10, 4-4 NI Big 12 East): The Knights need to fix their free-throw shooting to be a threat down the stretch. 3. Sycamore (10-9, 2-5 NI Big 12 East): The Spartans hope their loss to DeKalb makes them a better team. 4. Indian Creek (13-12, 2-3 Little Ten): The Timberwolves’ post trio of Samantha Mosley, Kate Thuestad and Josie Diehl had a nice game in a win against Pecatonica. 4. Hinckley-Big Rock (14-12, 5-1 LTC): The Royals beat St. Edward on Tuesday, and have one game remaining in the regular season. 6. Hiawatha (7-13, 1-4 LTC): Dani Clark has had a strong season for the Hawks. 7. Genoa-Kingston (2-22, 1-9 Big Northern East): The Cogs have improved defensively throughout the season.
NOTEBOOK: Loss to Barbs learning experience
Sycamore did not come close to beating DeKalb on Jan. 5 at the Convocation Center in DeKalb. But coach Brett Goff said he thinks his team is better simply by playing against an elite team such as the Barbs.
“We learned what defensive intensity is,” Goff said. “DeKalb plays extremely hard. They’re a talented group, and they could probably get by in games, such as against us, and probably play not as hard as they want to and probably still win, but every game I’ve seen this year, DeKalb plays very hard.”
With a freshman and sophomore-dominated team, the step up to varsity basketball has been a steep one for Goff’ players. Seeing a top varsity team might go a long way to helping Sycamore’s development.
“A lot of them were playing eighth-grade basketball last year, so that’s a big jump for them,” Goff said. “They’re getting there. I think they’ve shown the last couple of days in practice that they’re capable of doing more than what they have been in games.”
G-K needs more consistency
Genoa-Kingston coach Kyle Henkel has seen improvement in his team’s play throughout the season, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
Now, the challenge is putting together an entire game free of mental lapses.
“We’re really trying to focus on the mental aspect of the game,” Henkel said. “When we go through our rough patches in a game, it’s because we just kind of mentally break down.”
Henkel has tried to make sure practices are detail-oriented and that players stay disciplined for entire practices. If they can play an entire consistent game, they have a shot at adding to their two-win season.
“We’ve seen flashes of how we can play, but we definitely need to get rid of the mental mistakes, and there are some loose ends that need to be tied up,” Henkel said. “At times, we can play with people. Every game, it seems like we have a three- or four-minute stretch of mental mistakes that really come down and hurt us at the end of the game.”
Kaneland struggling with free throws
Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe tracks his team’s free-throw percentage in practice, and that number has stayed above the 70-percent threshold throughout the season. In games, the Knights were pushing 70 percent for most of the season, closing in on a school record for free-throw percentage.
Then, free-throw shooting became a problem. In one close loss, the Knights shot only 6 for 23. In a one-point, overtime loss to Sycamore last week, Kaneland took 23 less free throws than the Spartans.
“In a tight, one- or two-point ball game, there’s the bright, neon glowing sign, there’s the game,” Colombe said.
The good news for Colombe is that he thinks the Spartans’ free-throw woes are a fixable problem.
“We still feel pretty good,” Colombe said. “We’ve lost some tough games, but I think that a lot of stuff that has happened is correctable. The kids are positive, we’re in good spirits, and we’re looking forward to the stretch run here.
VIEWS: Coaches gearing up for stretch run
Heading into the final stretch of the season, every coach is asking the same question: “How do I get my team to peak at the right time?”
That’s the ultimate question for coaches, and it’s almost impossible to give a universal answer.
“Year to year, that changes based on your personnel,” Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said. “Toward the end of the year, we’ve cut back practice time a little big, tried to save some legs.”
Most teams will shave off time in practice as the season winds down, resting their players after a long season.
But Sycamore will see an intense schedule in the next week, something coach Brett Goff hopes prepares the Spartans for a postseason run. Goff said he thinks playing against DeKalb and a talented Ottawa team will help them do that.
“Playing the likes of DeKalb and Ottawa over the weekend will make some games we have coming up seem a little easier,” Goff said.
For struggling teams, the end of the season can be a complicated time. Genoa-Kingston has won only two games, and coach Kyle Henkel knows it’s important to keep his team engaged.
“Keeping positive, not harping on the negatives too much, because it’s a long season, it’s a grind,” Henkel said. “You have to try and keep them in it mentally and keep them positive as much as you can.”
The most important aspect of making a team peak at the right time – know your players.
“With certain kids, you try to up the intensity, give them a little pep talk before the game, and with others you have to know when to lay off,” Goff said. “As a team, you just try to get them on a roll and to do the best they possibly can. It’s not an easy situation as a coach.”
• Anthony Zilis is a contributor to the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.