SYCAMORE – Jake Winters and some of Sycamore’s other seniors talked during the summer about the possibility of winning the Northern Illinois Big 12 East in football, basketball and baseball.
None of the three teams did so last year, with each coming agonizingly close to conference titles that largely have eluded Sycamore in recent years.
But after football won its first NI Big 12 East crown, the boys basketball team, made up of many seniors who also played football in the fall, looked destined to make it 2 for 2.
Sycamore’s active 2-3 zone shut down Morris’ offense and the Spartans shot 54 percent from the field on their way to a dominating 60-30 victory that gave them a share of the conference crown. Morris and Kaneland also finished at 7-3 in the conference for a three-way tie.
“That’s kind of been our senior class goal is to win conference in all three,” said Winters, also a receiver for Sycamore’s 12-1 football team. “It’s awesome to say that we won conference on senior night. That’s great.”
Sycamore (20-7, 7-3 NI Big 12 East), usually a pressure man-to-man team, used its zone to force four consecutive Morris turnovers to start the game. That was a theme throughout the first half as Morris ended the second quarter with barely more shots attempted (14) than turnovers (12).
“That’s the best 32 minutes of defense we’ve played. We typically don’t play a lot of zone, but we thought that gave us the best chance to win,” Sycamore coach Andrew Stacy said. “These guys believed in what we were trying to do and executed it.”
Sycamore took advantage of Morris’ offensive struggles, even after leading scorer Devin Mottet picked up his second foul late in the first quarter. The Spartans started the second quarter on a 15-2 run, including two 3-pointers from Winters and back-to-back driving layups from Ben Niemann and Mark Skelley.
A putback from Niemann off his own miss increased Sycamore’s lead to 17 and the Spartans led, 27-14, at the half.
The Spartans’ hot shooting continued in the second half as Sycamore knocked down another three 3-pointers in the third quarter, part of a 19-0 run over five minutes that stretched the Sycamore lead from 11 to 30.
“We always talk about trying to be a balanced team and we were a balanced team tonight,” Stacy said. “Being able to get in the ball inside, penetrate and also get the ball to our shooters and knock some outside shots down.”
Sycamore, which started five seniors, was led by 13 points each from Mottet and Nick Feuerbach. Niemann had 10 points and six rebounds and Winters finished with nine.
The Spartans start postseason play Tuesday in the Class 3A Genoa-Kingston Regional semifinals against the winner of Monday’s matchup between G-K and Montini, and Sycamore couldn’t think of a better way to enter the playoffs.
“It’s exactly what you want in the season,” Winters said. “You just want to keep momentum and keep it going, so that’s what we’re hoping to do.”