MAPLE PARK – There was no raucous celebration from the DeKalb players after Thursday’s 52-39 victory over Kaneland that gave the Barbs a share of their fourth consecutive Northern Illinois Big 12 East title.
But after an early season loss to Sycamore put the Barbs in a small hole in the conference race, the title was no small feat for a young DeKalb team that continues to progress.
“It says a lot about these kids over the course of these last few years. Their work ethic and coming through what was kind of a roller-coaster season for us, not only in the conference but outside the conference playing some tough games,” said DeKalb assistant coach Mark Sykes, who filled in for head coach Chris Davenport on Thursday. “It’s just a great thing for our kids and our program.”
DeKalb (21-7, 9-1 NI Big 12 East) quickly took a 9-0 lead in the first quarter and never trailed in its final tuneup before the postseason.
Brittney Patrick scored four points in the first three minutes and a Madelyne Johnson 3-pointer gave DeKalb a 16-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Knights struggled against DeKalb’s 2-3 zone in the first half, converting only two field goals, and trailed by 11 at the break. But Kaneland started getting the ball inside to Kelly Wallner, who scored 12 points on the night, and the offense recorded 18 points, almost half of its total offensive output on the night, in the third quarter.
“When we’re patient, we get the ball inside and we don’t settle for jump shots,” Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said. “We get in trouble, we have all year, when we settle for jump shots. First half we had too many turnovers.”
Any hope of a Kaneland (11-4, 3-5) comeback quickly was erased with seven DeKalb points in the first 90 seconds of the fourth quarter. Johnson scored four points inside and Wogen hit a 3-pointer from the corner off the feed from Patrick. Wogen hit three 3-pointers on the night, all in the second half.
“It builds our intensity level up and our offense gets better,” Malloy said of Wogen’s 3-pointers. “We don’t try to rush it and it just gives us points on the board.”
Johnson finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Patrick had 12 points. The Barbs had 11 steals, including three each from Malloy and Patrick.
Sycamore, which split its two games with DeKalb, has a chance to claim a share of the NI Big 12 East title with a win at Kaneland tonight. A Spartans loss would give DeKalb the title outright.
DeKalb will start the postseason against Belvidere North at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 4A Rockford Jefferson Regional semifinals.
“I think our confidence level is really high,” Malloy said. “We all know that we need to work hard to win and that’s what we need to do.”