PLANO – Trailing by 15 points at the end of the first quarter, many teams would lose faith, but the Kaneland boys basketball isn’t one of them.
“One thing that [Coach Brian] Johnson preaches at practice is to never give up. We respect the guy. Obviously we didn’t give up – we wanted to win,” senior forward John Pruett said. “We just wanted to stack a couple of wins and get on a winning streak.”
The Knight erased that 15-point deficit, took their first lead of the game with 1:32 left in the game. A Pruett free throw proved to be the difference as Kaneland escaped with a 65-64 victory over Mendota on Saturday afternoon in consolation play in the Plano Christmas Classic.
“Obviously, we struggled in the first half. Then we came out and coach just told us that we need to play,” said Pruett, who finished with 7 second-half points. “We just needed to come out strong and do what we do best.”
Johnson wasted no time changing personnel after his starters were struggling in the first half.
Entering the second half, Kaneland trailed, 45-35. The Knights started the half on an 11-4 run to get back into the contest. Tyler Carlson’s six points sparked the run. Kaneland closed the gap to three twice in the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Kaneland (6-3) finally got over the hump and tied the game at 61 after Drew David hit a long jumper from the corner. The Knights’ first lead (63-62) came after David hit two free throws. Mendota’s Joe Lashonse hit two free throws to give the Trojans the lead again at 64-63.
Pruett hit one of two free throws on Kaneland’s next possession to tie the game.
A foul put Jake Rod on the line with a chance to give Mendota a lead, but Rod missed both foul shots and the Knights had a chance to win the game.
Johnson called a timeout.
“We were just kind of looking to get a back door play – a little misdirection. We were lucky that John got fouled and made his first free throw,” Johnson said. “We had a couple plays ready. One was for a zone and one for a man-to-man. We were able to capitalize.”
David found Pruett on a back-door cut and Pruett drew the foul as he was drving to the basket with two seconds left. Pruett hit one-of-two from the free throw line to give the Knights the win.
Kaneland had to deal with Mendota’s James Carroll all game, who finished with a then-tournament record 42 points Friday afternoon. Carroll scored 28 points in this game, but only scored five points in the second half – all on free throws.
“We put a longer kid (Pruett) on [Carroll] and tried to face guard him a little bit, but if he wasn’t in foul trouble, he may have put another 40 on us,” Johnson said. “It took away his aggressiveness a little bit. We were able to do some things defensively much better in the second half.”
Ryan David led the way for Kaneland with 16 points and eight rebounds; 13 of those points came in the first half to keep the game close. Drew David finished with 15 points and Carlson recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Kaneland will play Dixon at 12:45 p.m. today for ninth place.