Photo: Marcel Neil goes skyward for a bucket during Saturday’s 55-42 win at the Windmill Classic against host Batavia. Photo by John DiDonna
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Not a terrible start for a lineup with plenty of turnover and a new opening tournament setting.
Despite a one-point loss to St. Francis in the first game of the 2011-12 season on Nov. 23, the Kaneland Knights boys basketball roster rallied for a 10-point win over Crystal Lake South on Friday and a 13-point win over the Ken Peddy Windmill Classic host Batavia Bulldogs. Tuesday featured a loss to visiting Metea Valley.
The Knights, under third-year head man Brian Johnson, begin at 2-2 after their new opening arrangement, and first week of action.
For years, the Knights began the Thanksgiving weekend at the Strombom Tourney in Sycamore.
Against the eventual tourney champ St. Francis Spartans, the Knights lost 56-55 and were paced by sophomore Thomas Williams’ 13 points, Trever Heinle (All-Tournament Team member) with 10 and Tyler Heinle’s 10.
St. Francis took a 16-13 lead after one, and led 32-30 at halftime, before seeing its lead increase to 45-39 after three. KHS closed the margin some, but couldn’t break the barrier.
Against the Gators two nights later, the Knights were fortunate to have 27 points from Trever Heinle at their disposal, plus 11 from West Aurora transfer Marcel Neil.
After a deadlocked 12-12 first quarter, KHS went ahead 26-23 at the half and 37-33 after three before making the lead stick and then some in the fourth.
Against former conference rival Batavia, which was missing scoring threat Cole Gardner, KHS found twin 17-point efforts from both Neil and Trever Heinle.
“One of our goals is to pressure teams, and I think we’re hard to guard, especially for teams that aren’t used to more athletic guys,” Johnson said. “That helps us, and gives us an edge at times on the offensive end.”
Heinle and Neil made three straight shots for the Knights for an early 8-2 lead with five minutes, 42 seconds to go in the first. Once the Bulldogs tied the score at 10, Heinle jacked a three and converted on another field goal for a 15-10 lead with 19.1 seconds to go that closed out the first frame’s scoring.
The second quarter also went the Knights’ way.
Up 21-17, Neil had an offensive putback, while Tyler Heinle hit a three for a 26-17 lead with 2:10 remaining in the half. A Trever Heinle bucket made it 28-18 just before the halftime buzzer.
Kaneland used a strong quarter by Neil to go up by as many as 17 points, and the frame ended with Kaneland up 39-22.
A Neil basket elevated KHS to its biggest lead of 44-24 with 6:18 to go in the game. But Batavia converted on shots it hadn’t previously and closed the lead to nine, before the Knights exhibited ball control and clock management beneficial to the winning cause.
Neil’s effort was key in the win, and it had to do with letting the game come to him.
“Some of my shots weren’t falling, and then I just attacked the rim and (started) making things happen and we got a lot of buckets,” Neil said. “We just started breaking the defense down and taking our time, relaxing and playing as a team.”
In the 87-65 setback to Metea Valley, KHS kept it to a 43-35 deficit at the half, and 59-50 after three, but then saw the fourth quarter get out of hand for the final deficit.
The Knights were paced by Williams’ 14, Neil’s 12 and Drew David’s 10.
Kaneland now heads into NIB-12 play with a home date against the Morris Redskins on Friday, Dec. 2.