GENOA – It was only a matter of time before the Sycamore girls basketball team broke through Marengo’s gritty defense.
The Spartans held a one-point halftime lead during their sectional semifinal game Tuesday night at Genoa-Kingston High School. But Sycamore was outstanding after the break, limiting the Indians to only one made field goal during the third quarter, as the Spartans ran past Marengo for a 43-27 victory.
Sycamore coach Adam Wickness said the message at halftime was simple.
“We did a good job contesting on their shooters,” Wickness said. “Our first-half defense was great, but we still failed to communicate. They got six of their 13 points because we lost a shooter. I told them, ‘Playoff basketball is easy – communicate, get defensive stops and stretch the lead when you get a chance to.’ ”
[Photos by Mary Beth Nolan]
The Spartans (25-5) did just that in the second half as they made the Indians’ (22-9) offense vanish. Sycamore went on an 11-2 run to take a 29-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
Sophomore Kylie Feuerbach also found her touch in the second half, scoring 11 of her game-high 17 points after the break.
“Kylie is a big-time rhythm player,” Wickness said. “She’s a girl that when she can get going, she can fill it up in a hurry. And she did. She got it going in the second half.”
Marengo coach Nick Rode said his team’s goal was to make life miserable for Feuerbach and teammate Kate Majerus. He thought the Indians did that in the first half but failed to carry it into the third quarter, which translated to bad offense.
“We got tight on offense, and our movement stopped,” he said. “We wanted to puncture them off the drive and with some backcourt cuts. We were pretty unsuccessful doing that in the third quarter.”
Comparing Sycamore’s first- and second-half offense was day-and-night. The Spartans missed their first five shots to begin the game. Despite her team’s offensive struggles in the first half, Feuerbach said she was never worried.
“We’re kind of used to [the defensive pressure],” she said. “I think we had about 12 or 14 points worth of missed layups in the first half.
“We were just focusing on the little things in the second half ... making sure we screened for our teammates and finished at the basket. When our shots started to fall, it gave us more confidence.”
The exclamation point for Sycamore came with less than two minutes left when Feuerbach stole the ball near half court and sprinted toward the basket for an uncontested layup to balloon the Spartans’ lead to 41-25.
By the numbers: Feuerbach led Sycamore with 17 points. Majerus and Jacki Rapp both scored five points. Rapp also had four assists and two steals.
They said it: “Jacki is the glue that keeps the team together,” Wickness said. “She does the dirty work. She’s constantly in the right spot. I can’t be happier with the way she’s played all season. She does the things that don’t show up in the box score. But she’s the one that’s diving for loose balls and boxing out on every shot. Those things are what it takes to win in the postseason. We’ve talked about that like crazy during the course of the season. If we want to make a run in the playoffs, that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Up next: No. 2-seeded Sycamore faces top-seeded Glenbard South in the sectional championship at 7 p.m. Thursday at Genoa-Kingston High School.