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After tough start, DeKalb girls basketball catching fire

DeKalb's Madelyne Johnson (23) celebrates with her teammates including Brittney 
Patrick (left) and Alexis Hammond after defeating Sycamore, 46-42, Jan. 31 at the 
Convocation Center in DeKalb.
DeKalb's Madelyne Johnson (23) celebrates with her teammates including Brittney Patrick (left) and Alexis Hammond after defeating Sycamore, 46-42, Jan. 31 at the Convocation Center in DeKalb.

DeKALB – The DeKalb girls basketball team is catching fire at the right time.

After a tough start against a very challenging schedule, the Barbs have won 14 of their last 16 games, and finished the regular season at 21-7.

“I think a lot of it was youth,” DeKalb coach Chris Davenport said about the slower start. “Just playing youth, a lot of kids that didn’t play a lot of varsity minutes.”

Now, the Barbs are playing how they want to. And they’re going to have to be at their best to take home the Class 4A Rockford Jefferson Regional championship.

Second-seeded DeKalb opens up postseason play in the semifinals Tuesday against third-seeded Belvidere North at 8 p.m.

With a win, the Barbs would most likely get top seed Huntley, the same squad which knocked out DeKalb in last year’s regionals, Thursday at 7 p.m.

But the Barbs have been tested plenty of times this year. DeKalb has taken on a number of 4A schools, and took part in the Montini Christmas Tournament back in December, which included some of the top teams in the Chicago area. The Barbs have lost just twice since then.

“I definitely think the Montini Tournament is the No. 1 thing that helped us out. There were a couple of games we should have won, but Neuqua Valley is by far the best team we’ve seen all season,” DeKalb junior forward Madelyne Johnson said. “A 20-point loss to them, we learned from that, we realized what it takes to be a good team, and I definitely think that after that tournament we stepped it up because we knew what we had to do to win games.”

Johnson acknowledges that the Barbs are the underdog this year, unlike last season, when DeKalb entered the Belvidere North Regional with just four losses.

“The roles are changed. Huntley’s the No. 1, they’re the expected team to win,” Johnson said. “If we come out and play harder than what they are this year, that’s what happened last year. We were expected to win so we expected to win as a team.

“They outworked us last year. So I think as the underdog, if we come out and outwork them, it’ll be an upset just like it was last year.”

Spartans looking for first regional championship in 11 years: The first day of practice, Sycamore coach Brett Goff mentioned the Spartans’ 2003 regional championship banner to his players. He reminded them of it last week as well.

It was the last time the Spartans won a regional, and they’re hoping to add a new banner this week.

Top-seeded Sycamore opens up postseason play Wednesday at the Class 3A Plano Regional against the winner of No. 4 Rochelle and No. 5 Sandwich. With a win, the Spartans would get either second-seeded Plano or third-seeded Kaneland in the regional final. The Knights defeated the Spartans (19-7, 8-2) Friday and cost them a shared NI Big 12 East title.

“I feel that we’re playing really well,” Goff said. “After [the loss to DeKalb on Jan. 31] we’ve really bounced back and beaten some good teams with Yorkville and Rochelle and Ottawa, and played really well in those games.”

Taking home a regional plaque has been a big goal for Goff’s team.

“With the state of where our program has been and where it’s trying to get to, our girls are very focused on winning a regional,” Goff said.

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