SYCAMORE – Call DeKalb’s first loss of the conference season last Saturday a wake-up call.
On Thursday night, the Barbs showed no ill-effects from the sickness and injury that bothered them all last week in a 50-26 win over Sycamore, clinching the Northern Illinois Big 12 East girls basketball title outright.
“[On Saturday], we were all gone mentally and we were not at all ready to play,” Alexis Hammond said. “This past week, everyone was ready to go and excited. Everyone just worked really hard.”
Rachel Torres was sidelined once again with an injury, which coach Chris Davenport wouldn’t disclose, but the Barbs didn’t need the 2012 All-Area first-teamer in the win.
In her stead, sophomore Maddy Johnson had a standout performance, knocking down jump shot after jump shot on her way to 17 points.
“We’re not used to playing without [Torres],” Johnson said. “That was a big wake-up call for us and I’m glad we came out like we did tonight. ... I was ready and I knew what we had to get done. I wanted to come out and play my game, because Saturday was not our game.”
The Barbs (22-4, 9-1 NI Big 12 East) were their usual intense selves on defense all night, allowing the Spartans only five points in each of the first two quarters. The Spartans finally broke into double digits when Paige Wogen hit a 3-pointer as time expired in the second quarter.
After winning four of five games since their loss to DeKalb two weeks ago, Sycamore coach Brett Goff said Thursday’s defeat will help the Spartans (13-12, 3-7 NI Big 12 East) prepare for the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional.
“The intensity they bring on defense, we don’t see that anywhere else,” Goff said. It really has made our girls better, being more fundamentally sound, setting good screens, getting good looks. They’re very good defensively, so it absolutely helps us.”
After the loss, the Barbs are back on track as they prepare for the Class 4A Belvidere North Regional as the No. 2 seed. With the conference title in tow, DeKalb will head to Belvidere North with their confidence in tact.
“This week we got back to what we do, pushing hard and getting ready for regionals,” Johnson said. “On Saturday, we had that loss, and our mindset was, ‘OK, we need to come in and we need to win.’ I don’t like losing, and I’m pretty sure no one else does. I think we came out pretty hard and we felt pretty good.”