First conference crown since ‘82 highlights huge boys hoops win
by Mike Slodki
ROCHELLE—There have been plenty of things that have gone out of style since 1982, like Intellivision, Pac-Man and Valley Girl-speak.
One thing that never seems to go out of style is winning. Just ask Kaneland boys hoops.
With a trip into a vocal, home-happy environment at Rochelle High School, the Knights subdued a feisty Hubs unit 74-67 to take the Northern Illinois Big XII East Division championship on Friday night, their first conference crown since 1982.
Coach Brian Johnson was 2 years old at the time, when the Bob Pederson-led Knights went 26-6.
“For our guys to come here after winning on the road at Yorkville last week and to win on the road here; for them to handle that pressure, that’s all them. ” Johnson said .”They had toughness and got it done, I’m so proud of them.”
With the season sweep of Rochelle, Kaneland finished the regular season at 17-8, with an 8-2 mark in NIB-12 play. In 2009-10, KHS finished 16-9 in regular season play.
Chaon Denlinger had a game-high 26 points and four three-pointers, followed by 19 points from freshman Daniel Helm.
“This is helping us a lot,” Helm said. “We know we can persevere and we can battle. We had to eliminate (Alex Prusator) and (Joe Torres), and they still got their points, but we held them.”
Tyler Heinle, seeing his most crucial time of the regular season, hit three treys enroute to nine points.
Drew David’s three-pointer with 2:07 left in the first quarter gave Kaneland a 22-13 lead in a run-and-gun frame. Denlinger folllowed up with a bucket to make it 24-13 with 1:02 remaining, and Rochelle countered with a three to close within 24-16 with 42.3 to go, closing out the scoring.
Trever Heinle’s basket with 1:11 to go in the half gave Kaneland its biggest lead of the game at 41-28 before the Hubs came back with two baskets before the halftime buzzer sounded with the score 41-32.
Helm and Denlinger combined on four straight baskets in the third quarter to maintain a 49-40 lead with 4:41 remaining but Rochelle powered ahead and cut the lead to 51-50 with 2:36 to go. A Hubs foul shot with 21.6 seconds to close within 58-54.
A Heinle three-pointer with 5:21 in the fourth quarter gave KHS a 66-56 lead, but Rochelle scored nine unanswered points to close within 66-65 with 1:34 remaining.
Rochelle had a chance to take a lead with two free throw attempts but whiffed on both. After two Helm foul shots made it 68-65 with 1:05 to go, the Hubs sunk a shot to close within one with 51.0 seconds left.
Kaneland persevered with the help of free throws by Zach Ringhouse and David, increasing the final margin to seven.
Kaneland’s scheduled Sycamore Regional opponent, Aurora Central Catholic (13-13), finished its regular season with a 60-58 loss to St. Francis of Wheaton on Thursday. The winner of that contest was set to face either Rochelle or Sycamore in the final on Friday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m.