by Mike Slodki
As much as the five-game winning streak a month ago represented good times, these last three games had the look of a hard-luck end.
Wednesday, March 4, saw Hampshire beat Kaneland for the second time this season, in a 47-38 result at the Burlington Central Regional in Class 3A. Wheaton Academy then went on to defeat the Whip-purs on Friday night in Rocket-land, 47-42 to capture the regional title.
Sharp-shooting Mike Pritchard provided boosts throughout the game for the Knights and kept them in the fight with a game-high 15 points. Christian Dillon had eight and Dave Dudzinski was kept to seven points in the season finale.
â€œOutside of Mike, we really had no offense,â€ KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. â€œHe kept us in the game all night long.â€
Last season saw Kaneland lose in a 56-55 regional skirmish with BC to end its season.
The Knights end at 13-13 (5-9 Western Sun Conference), which is a three-game improvement from a year ago.
Throughout the game, it was evident that Hampshire was going to be effective in shutting the inside game of the Knights. Kaneland was then forced to try outside shooting, but clanked its first four tries. A feed from Dudzinski to Dillon with 1:28 remaining in the first gave KHS an 8-7 lead until Hampshireâ€™s basket with 56 seconds in the frame sent Kaneland down 9-8.
Pritchard came to life in the second quarter and accounted for all the points by the Knights. A field goal 25 seconds into the quarter gave Kaneland a 10-9 lead. Another jumpshot with 5:47 to go tied the score at 12-12, and a fadeaway gave Kaneland a 14-12 lead with 4:20 to go before Hampshire closed the half on a 6-0 run for an 18-14 deficit. A Pritchard three-pointer with 6:27 to go closed within 20-17, but a Steve Colombe shot and a Dillon basket off the glass were the only other field goals of the quarter. The Knights trailed 28-22 with eight minutes remaining.
Dealing with several six-point leads throughout the contest, a Hampshire trey made it 31-22 just 11 seconds into the frame. Pritchardâ€™s additional three closed it to 31-25 with 7:05 to go. Brody Rootâ€™s bucket with 6:18 remaining closed within 31-27, but Hampshire held the Knights at bay, even extending the lead to 46-36 on two free throws with 29 seconds to go.
After the conclusion of the game, Kaneland said goodbye to seniors Chris Ott, Joe Spitzzeri, Lubic, Ryan Blake, Pritchard, Root and Dillon, all of whom saw valuable time on the floor in 2008-09.
â€œAll seven are class acts,â€ Hansen said. â€œTheyâ€™re good kids, theyâ€™ve got good work ethic, and theyâ€™ve been the heart and soul of our team all year.â€