DeKALB – For much of November and December, DeKalb’s shooting woes hindered the Barbs from showing that they could contend with some of the best Class 4A teams in the state.
But since the calendar turned to 2014, DeKalb has played much more consistently. The Barbs rattled off seven wins in a row before a close loss to Maine South two weeks ago at home.
“We’ve started to understand that we have to work from the inside out a little bit, not settling for as many jumpers from the perimeter,” DeKalb coach Chris Davenport said. “We played with a lead for most of those games. That’s always nice, too.”
One of those early season losses came to rival Sycamore on the Barbs’ home court. It was the first time in five games the Barbs had lost to the Spartans and came after DeKalb beat Sycamore by an average of 21 points in the teams’ two matchups last season.
“Defensively, they’re better compared to last year. I was watching film of the Convo game from last year and they were in a man-to-man with us because we had so many threats outside last year that they couldn’t sit in a zone,” DeKalb junior Madelyne Johnson said. “This year is completely different, so they can sit in that 2-3 and can double-team me. Defensively, they have gotten a lot better.”
Because of the weather, DeKalb hasn’t played since the aforementioned loss to Maine South to finish the Barbs’ inaugural MLK Day tournament. But Davenport doesn’t think the long layoff will be a factor, at least not compared to other factors at play at the Convocation Center.
“We can always use a rest here and there. I don’t think it’s going to effect us either way,” Davenport said. “Playing in that Convo, ... it’s a tough place to shoot in. Everybody’s a little nervous, both sides.”
There is a lot at stake tonight, but it might only be a prelude to next year’s matchup when both teams return the vast majority of their rosters. By then, many players on each side will have played in the Convo multiple times. Johnson and Sycamore’s Bailey Gilbert will be among the rare group that could say they played in the DeKalb-Sycamore game all four years.
“It’s kind of exciting to see how good we all are right now and we’re all juniors and sophomores,” Johnson said. “I have one more year; Bailey has one more year. I think it’s awesome the competition between us two. I like it, it’s something cool, something to be proud about.”