MAPLE PARK – To earn a share of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East title, all the Sycamore girls basketball team needed was a win at Kaneland.
But the Knights were not ready to back down Friday on senior night.
The Knights only trailed once in the game and with the pressure on late in the fourth quarter, Kaneland sank six consecutive free throws to seal a 40-35 win. Senior Caroline Heimerdinger led all scorers with 14 points, including 9 points in the fourth quarter.
“[We played] really well. I was really happy,” Heimerdinger said. “We definitely just tried to take it to them and keep up the pressure. We all did really well all around with great movement and everything.”
Sycamore’s (19-7, 8-2 NI Big 12 East) only lead came midway through the first quarter after a Julia Moll layup made the score 6-4. The Knights regained the lead but the Spartans kept the game within reach and Kaneland led 17-13 at the break.
Kaneland (13-14, 5-5) pushed the lead out to eight toward the end of the third quarter. A Bailey Gilbert triple sparked a Spartan 6-0 run to close out the quarter. It was Gilbert’s first field goal of the game.
“I think we played great. We held Bailey Gilbert to where we wanted to,” Kaneland senior Kelly Wallner said. “Our defense was amazing and I really think we came out with energy and played great.”
Wallner finished with 14 rebounds. Sycamore only grabbed a handful of offensive rebounds and was outrebounded, 29-15, overall.
“We have been working on rebounding a lot in practice. We did a ton of rebounding drills,” Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said. “Earlier in the season, we were struggling tipping the ball and trying to get rebounds. But our kids have been going up stronger.”
Sycamore coach Brett Goff said that his team had a
tough time scoring on the offensive end.
“We just came out a little flat,” Goff said. “But, defensively, we played pretty well, we just had a hard time putting the ball in the basket.”
The shooting woes continued for Sycamore in the fourth quarter as the Spartans went 4 for 14 from the field. Kaneland’s final nine points came from the free-throw line to close out the contest.
Wallner finished with 9 points to go along with her 14 rebounds. Amber Winquist Bailey and Marina Schaefer each scored 4 points apiece. Nine Knights recorded points in the game.
“It was a huge game. It was great to beat them with regionals coming up. Everyone now knows that we can beat them,” Wallner said. “And, as a senior, beating them on our last game on this floor was awesome. Great win for us.”
For Sycamore, Gilbert finished with nine points. Moll led the Spartans with 10 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Taiya Hopkins scored nine points and pulled down five rebounds.
“We will bounce back,” Goff said. “I am confident that we will bounce back and be ready to play on Wednesday night.”