SYCAMORE – When it comes to the Sycamore girls' basketball team's attitude as it begins the postseason, coach Adam Wickness borrowed a phrase recently popularized by a Kaneland and NIU alum.
"We are all rowing the boat in the same direction, to kind of quote P.J. Fleck there from Minnesota," Wickness said. "We're all rowing the boat in the same direction, we're all on the same page and when we do that we're a pretty tough team to beat."
The Sycamore press was certainly all on the same page Tuesday, forcing 26 turnovers in a 61-27 win over Rochelle to open the Class 3A Sycamore Regional.
"I thought we came out very aggressive and our defense was good at jumping passing lanes," Wickness said. "Then we converted those steals to points early on. Our halfcourt sets didn't look great in the first quarter but we came out and executed better in the second quarter, ran our offense pretty well, and that led to us getting some pretty good looks."
The first 10 steals for Sycamore (25-6) led to 11 points as the Spartans scored 19 of the game's first 20 points, a run capped by a Faith Klemm layup off an Ella Shipley steal.
The lead grew to as much 39-8 in the first half and 52-17 in the third quarter. The last time the teams met, Rochelle (5-27) kept things close in a 60-45 loss. The Spartans won the first meeting in December in Sycamore, 75-23.
"We did not want it to be a close game again," said Faith Feuerbach, who had 14 points, four rebounds and two steals for Sycamore. "We wanted to make sure with the press, we got stops on that. We wanted to make sure it wasn't close because we wanted to get to the next step."
Wickness said he felt the Spartans were giving up the middle of the court when they ran the press last time against Rochelle, leading to some easy buckets. He said they took that away this time around.
"I went back and I watched some film from the last time we played, noticed some things we didn't do a good job of," Wickness said. "That was an emphasis that we put on for the five keys to the game. We talked about some of the things we did not do good the last time compared to the first time when we beat them pretty handily. It was one of those things where I looked at it and we talked about it but we didn't lose any sleep over it."
Feuerbach said the press was more effective this time around, as Sycamore scored 19 points from 26 Rochelle turnovers, including 15 steals.
"Last time we played them we gave up a few easy buckets in transition, Feuerbach said. "This time we kind of locked down on that, got some good steals from it."
By the numbers: Kylie Feuerbach led the Spartans with 17 points and added three steals. Evyn Carrier had a game-best seven rebounds off the bench for Sycamore. Shipley had four steals and Klemm added three. Josie Lundquist scored seven to lead Rochelle and Sam House scored six to go with a team-leading six rebounds.
Beyond the stats: Kylie Feuerbach scored on a layup with 6 minutes left in the third quarter – it was the last points scored by a Sycamore starter in the game.
They said it: "We've just got to prepare for whoever wins this game," Faith Feuerbach said. "Obviously it's going to be a great team, we're all good teams. But our goal is to just keep winning and get to state."
Up next: The Spartans will face Dixon in the final at 7 p.m. Thursday.