by Mike Slodki
Suddenly, the Knight boys basketball team is not one opposing teams want to face.
It couldnâ€™t have come at a better time.
With a 57-45 non-conference win at Marmion Academy in Aurora on Saturday, and a 63-54 Western Sun Conference win at Sycamore, coach Dennis Hansenâ€™s Knights are now 13-10, having won five in a row.
KHS is now 5-7 in conference play.
Sycamore fell to 8-13.
Against the Cadets, center weapon Dave Dudzinski scored 20 points, Brody Root added 14 and Ryley Bailey had 12 of his own.
The Knights trailed 8-7 after one quarter, but had a monster second quarter and outscored the Cadets 21-14 for a 28-22 halftime lead.
Kaneland increased its lead to 42-32 after three before closing it out.
Against the Spartans, Dudzinski had 26 points, which matched the game-high of Sycamoreâ€™s Michael Buckner. Christian Dillon added 14 of his own.
â€œWeâ€™re playing really well and just trying to get the ball to Christian and Dave,â€ Mike Pritchard said. â€œIf theyâ€™re double-teamed, weâ€™re making a lot of outside shots.â€
Up 9-8 in the first quarter, Ryan Blake hit a three pointer with 1:05 remaining for a four-point edge. After the Spartans hit a bucket with 51.2 remaining, Root came back with the final basket of the frame with 38.3 to go for a 14-10 lead.
When Root hit another jumper 59 seconds into the second quarter for a 16-10 lead, Sycamore went on a 7-1 run to tie the score at 17 with 4:46 remaining. Dudzinski hit a shot in the lane and Curtis Lubic soon followed with a bucket to retake the lead at 21-17 with 3:47 to go. After Buckner hit a free throw with 1:53 to go, Dudzinski hit two more shots, the last with 6.1 seconds to go for a 25-18 halftime edge.
Two buckets by Dillon and one by Dudzinski increased the lead to 31-20 with 6:14 to go. With two baskets by Root, Kaneland earned its biggest lead of the night at 39-26 with 2:56 to go.
Dillonâ€™s bucket with 1:26 to go in the frame made it 43-31 before Will Strackâ€™s three-point play and a Buckner free throw closed the third-quarter scoring at 43-35.
Sycamore continued to fight back on its home floor, even cutting the deficit to 49-43 on a Strack three with 3:39 to go. Kaneland tempered the attack with a Dudzinski field goal and a Blake shot to add some breathing room at 53-43 with 2:53 to go.
Dillon, Root and Dudzinski all saw time at the foul line to add to the total before the final buzzer.
â€œWeâ€™re all pointing toward regionals right now,â€ Hansen said. â€œWe just have to keep playing the way weâ€™ve been playing. Tonight we played all man-to-man. It worked so well that we stayed with it.â€
Only two more regular season contests are in the way before the Class 3A regionals start at Burlington Central, with Hampshire the Knightsâ€™ opponents.
KHS goes up against Geneva in Maple Park on Friday, Feb. 20.
Photo: Mike Pritchard directs a pass during Fridayâ€™s nine-point win at Sycamore. Photo by John DiDonna