BURLINGTON – With the game in the balance, Kaneland had the shot it wanted.
Just eight minutes earlier with Kaneland trailing Plano by 15 points entering the fourth quarter, it seemed improbable the Knights would even be in that position, having a final possession with a chance to advance to the regional finals.
After a furious fourth-quarter rallythat saw the Knights climb within one, Kaneland called timeout with 1.5 seconds left. Caroline Heimerdinger inbounded the ball from underneath Plano’s basket and found Allyson O’Herron, who had cut to the right wing and set up just behind the 3-point arc.
O’Herron, Kaneland’s leading scorer, had made six 3-pointers in Tuesday’s win over Sandwich. But her final 3-point attempt Wednesday fell short, hitting off the front of the rim, and Plano held on for a 52-51 victory over Kaneland in the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional semifinals.
Plano advances to the regional final and will face Burlington Central, which defeated Hampshire in the night’s first semifinal.
“We had two options: an inside look and an outside look and [O’Herron] was our outside look,” Colombe said. “They packed it in and we got a shot and that’s all you can ask for.”
The Knights (16-11) fell behind early as Plano took advantage of Kaneland 2-3 zone, hitting five 3-pointers in the first quarter to take a 22-6 lead.
The Plano lead grew to as many as 20 in the second quarter as the Reapers led, 30-14, at halftime.
“We started out slow, they hit some shots,” Colombe said. “That’s probably the best 3-point shooting I’ve seen them shoot.”
Kaneland’s offense began to find a rhythm in the second half and it started on the defensive end. The Knights were forced to switch out of their zone and into a man-to-man defense, managing to force 11 turnovers in the second half.
Trailing by 15 entering the fourth quarter, Kaneland scored six consecutive points in transition. Brooke Harner hit a driving layup for two and then Heimerdinger converted back-to-back layups to bring the Knights within nine, the first time Kaneland had been within single digits since late in the first quarter.
“Once it started rolling we got in such a great rhythm and it made us all want to work even harder,” Kaneland senior forward Ashley Prost said. “That was just great.”
A layup by Prost with just less than two minutes to go put Kaneland within one. They forced another Plano turnover and had two different possessions to take the lead, but couldn’t convert one final time.
Prost led the Knights with 22 points while Heimerdinger had eight off the bench and Emma Bradford chipped in seven.
Four of Kaneland’s five starters were seniors, most of whom had been playing with each other since grade school.
“Six kids who play with heart, they’re leaders,” Colombe said of his senior class. “I think they’ve set the bar for the kids behind them. Down the road their impact will be felt.”