MAPLE PARK – By the time he knew the shot went in, Kaneland guard Dylan Vaca had fallen on his backside on the other side of halfcourt.
After releasing his 3-point attempt early in the second quarter, the Kaneland sophomore was fouled by Glenbard South’s Connor Willis, and the contact sent Vaca stumbling backward, depriving him of the visual image of watching his shot bounce off the rim and fall through.
It was that kind of charmed night for Vaca, who completed a pair of four-point plays Tuesday as top-seeded Kaneland withstood a legitimate challenge from the fourth-seeded Raiders for an 81-70 win in an IHSA Class 3A Kaneland Regional semifinal.
“I was knocked off balance, and I kept trying to find my balance, and I just couldn’t get it until I was back on [the other] side of the court,” Vaca said of his second quarter shot. “I didn’t even see it go in. I just kind of fell down on the other side and I heard everybody cheer, so I guess it fell.”
While less theatrical, Vaca’s second four-point play came at a more dramatic time. Kaneland trailed, 56-54, early in the fourth quarter when Vaca gave the Knights the lead for good with another 3-pointer plus foul.
Vaca, who missed much of the season with a wrist injury, scored 20 points off the bench for the Knights (17-9).
“This was a game Dylan really needed, and we needed it from him,” Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said. “He’s been a little discouraged, just coming back from that wrist injury. He played really well, and he hit big shots when we needed them.”
Drew David (22 points), Ryan David (16) and John Pruett (15) also helped the Knights prevail in the high-scoring affair as Kaneland earned a spot in Friday’s regional final against the winner of tonight’s semifinal between St. Francis and Marmion.
Feeding off the momentum of Vaca’s second four-point play, Kaneland outscored Glenbard South, 29-16, in the fourth quarter. Drew David followed up with a 3-pointer to make it 61-56 Kaneland, and a Pruett put-back moments later increased the margin to seven as the Knights began to pull away.
Drew David scored nine points in the fourth quarter, making all four of his free throws.
Kaneland led, 37-35, after a fast-paced and physical first half in which explosive Raiders point guard Chaun Rickette scored 17 points. Rickette finished with a game-high 30 points for the Raiders (16-12).