Photo: Dave Dudzinski (file photo).
Knights hoopsters eliminated by DeKalb in 50-47 heartbreaker
by Mike Slodki
Pieces were in place for a storybook ending during Friday nightâ€™s 3A Kaneland Regional Championship.
Down 49-42 with 39.1 seconds remaining against top-seeded DeKalb, Kaneland fired off five quick point. They were down by two and had the ball with 9.4 seconds left.
However, the storybook endingâ€™s final chapter was cut off and the 2009-10 saga ended with a 50-47 loss in Maple Park.
Kaneland is still looking for its first regional title since 1999. They allowed themselves the opportunity for championship glory with a 48-45 win over Hampshire on March 3.
Dave Dudzinski, playing his final game in a Knights uniform, finished with 23 points. Counterpart Jordan Threloff had 18 points, and Barbs guard Dylan Donnelly had 17.
Going into the fourth quarter down 39-36, Kaneland found itself in desperation mode with 3:52 to go and down 45-38 after a Donnelly trey.
A Chaon Denlinger baseline jumper closed to within 45-40, but two foul shots by DeKalb with 46.8 to go made it 47-40. After two more freebies by Threloff put the Knights in the seven-point hole, Steve Colombe nailed a three and then later got a layup after a DeKalb turnover to close within 49-47 with 16.2 left.
With DeKalbâ€™s Pat Rourke then missing the front end of a one-and-one, Dudzinski grabbed the rebound and a timeout was called.
Colombe inbounded the ball to Ryley Bailey who passed to Dudzinski near the basket, but the official whistled the Holy Cross-signee on a traveling violation, drawing the ire of players and Kaneland fans alike.
Rourke then made one free throw with .8 seconds to go to cement the victory.
â€œDudzinski got the ball and was in a position to score and unfortunately the call was made,â€ first-year coach Brian Johnson said.
Johnsonâ€™s plan had Dudzinski for the final shot or kicking it out to Denlinger for a game-winning three try.
Kaneland led 17-16 after the first eight minutes and made five straight shots to go up 15-6 before DeKalb closed the gap.
Toward the end of the first half, Dudzinski hit the hoop for two baskets and gave KHS a 29-28 lead going into the locker room.
Kaneland went cold in the third quarter, going only 2-for-8 from the field. Down 39-33, Bailey launched a deep three-pointer that beat the buzzer and brought the deficit to 39-36.
Johnson reflected on the character of the players to draw themselves in a position to win, rather than the muddled outcome.
â€œI came in as a first-year coach and challenged them to grow as a team and grow as young men; they gave me all they had,â€ Johnson said.
The Knights saw their season end at 17-10, up from 13-13 the previous year.
Kaneland earned its revenge from last year’s regional opening loss to the Whip-purs a year ago with 22 points from Dudzinski. Shyler Ralphs of Hampshire and teammate Justin Beiber led their side with 12 each.
The Knights made seven foul shotsâ€”all by Dudzinski who was perfect from the line on the night.
In the first frame, Hampshire rained down three three-pointers to take a 9-6 lead, but with a Bailey basket down low, the lead was slimmed to 9-8 with 4:21 to go.
After Hampshire made it 11-8, Dudzinski sank a three with 42.3 seconds left to tie the game and then dunked with 5 ticks left for Kaneland to go up 13-11 after one.
Hampshire made five out of six shot attempts and added a foul shot to go up 25-22 with 1:21 left in the second quarter.
Williams sank a three to tie the score at 25 with 1:14 to go, and Bailey found Dudzinski on a lay-in underneath with 36.9 to go to go up 27-25.
However, the Knights soon fouled Bieber, and he went to the line to make three shots with 3.4 seconds left. Hampshire went into the locker room up 28-27.
Kaneland came out in the third quarter on a tear, going up 35-28 with 4:52 remaining, thanks to baskets from Bailey, Denlinger and Dudzinski. When Hampshire cut it to three, Colombe hit a jumper to go up 37-32 with 1:06 to go.
When Kaneland matched its biggest lead in the fourth quarter at 39-32 with 7:32 to go, Hampshire got its second wind and cut the lead to 41-40 with 3:47 to go.
Dudzinski came through with a three-point play to make it 44-40 with 1:58 remaining.
After three foul shots by the Whip-purs made it 44-43, Dudzinski found his way for another basket with 1:08 to go, giving KHS a 46-43 lead.
After a Hampshire basket with 51.9 to go cut the deficit to one, Dudzinski was later fouled on an inbound pass and sank two foul shots with 9.8 to give the Knights a 48-45 lead.
The Whip-purs had one last chance, and Brock Ralps attempted a three-pointer while double-teamed that clanked off the front of the rim.
With the conclusion of the season, the Knights say goodbye to seniors Bailey, Danilo Bruno, Colombe, Sean Paulick, Williams and Dudzinski.