Kaneland ended the first half of Friday’s Class 3A Plano Regional against Sycamore on a 10-2 run.
At the start of the third, the Knights would tie Sycamore on an Ally VanBogaert 3-pointer.
But then, Sycamore’s suffocating defense stepped up, allowing just five points the rest of the contest.
The Spartans (21-7) focused on trying to shut down Kaneland guard Caroline Heimerdinger and forward Kelly Wallner. Both were held to just three points.
“I feel pretty much all year we’ve had a really strong defensive team,” Sycamore senior Baylee Foresman said. “It’s really helped us when we have good defense get into our offense and score points in transition.”
The Spartans will need their strong defensive play tonight when they take on Burlington Central (24-4) in the Class 3A Belvidere Sectional semifinals at 6 p.m. It’s a rematch from a game earlier this season when the Rockets defeated the Spartans by four points.
Sycamore will be without starting guard Lauren Goff, most likely for the rest of the postseason, as she suffered a concussion Feb. 8 against Ottawa.
The winner will play the winner of the other semifinal between Richmond-Burton and Rockford Lutheran.
Sycamore hopes to carry the momentum from a dominating defensive second half into tonight’s game.
The surprising aspect of Friday’s performance was the Spartans playing a 2-3 zone – a defensive system they rarely play.
The Spartans went with their normal man-to-man defense in a 52-39 loss to the Knights on Feb. 14 which cost Sycamore a share of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East title.
Goff decided to switch things up this time around.
“It worked really well against Hampshire, so we thought, let’s try it again. It’s basically the same type of team [as Kaneland],” Goff said. “We have a few different defenses we can use. We thought this would be the best one for [Friday].”
Sycamore senior guard Julia Moll said the fact the Spartans play in a man-to-man defense most of the time plays a big benefit when it comes to getting in a zone.
“I think we’re really comfortable in zone because [Goff]’s taught us so well with our man-to-man,” Moll said. “Man-to-man relates to every kind of defense. There’s principles of man-to-man in any kind of zone you play. Once you really work hard on man-to-man you’re kind of working on everything else, so we’re really comfortable with it.”