Photo: Tyler Heinle (32) contemplates his next move for the third-seeded Knights during Monday’s 50-44 win over the Morris Redskins at the Plano Christmas Classic. Heinle scored 12 points against the Redskins. Photo by Patti Wilk
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—A team always likes to make a statement in its opening contest. Preferably, it’d be a positive statement.
At Kaneland High School’s boys basketball opener of the 49th annual Plano Christmas Classic, the Knights not only made a positive statement, but also earned their second straight victory over rival Morris on Tuesday by a 50-44 margin.
Kaneland, the third-seed, was due to play the Streator Bulldogs on Wednesday after Streator beat Burlington Central.
KHS was paced by Marcel Neil’s 13 points and Tyler Heinle’s 12.
The perimeter game was kind to Kaneland, with the first-half featuring a reliance on the bombs. The Knights had seven three-pointers on the day.
In the first quarter, Kaneland fell behind 13-12, but saw trifectas from Thomas Williams, Neil, Dan Miller and Heinle in the frame.
Yet another three by Williams gave KHS a 21-19 advantage with 2:34 left in the half.
After a foul shot by Neil and an ensuing basket, Kaneland led 24-19 with 47.1 left before Morris converted a three-point play to make it 24-22.
Kaneland saw its lead grow to as much as nine points in the third, thanks to a pair of foul shots by Heinle with 1:56 left. Drew David’s foul shot made it 36-30 before the buzzer sounded.
Morris got to within 38-36 with 4:35 to go, but a Matt Limbrunner baseline jumper with 4:13 remaining got the margin back to four. A David three and Limbrunner basket got the margin back to 45-39 with 1:38 to go. Heinle made five foul shots down the stretch to secure the win.
“Down the long run, this will make us better,” Heinle said. “They’re on video, we have their plays and know what their guards and big men do.”
KHS coach Brian Johnson was pleased at how the Knights recovered through some first-half troubles.
“I thought we made nice adjustments in the second half, and Limbrunner had some nice shots. He’s a good shooter and allowed us to open up the game a little bit,” Johnson said.
Kaneland’s goal of winning its second Plano Christmas Classic in three years is still intact, with the tournament ending on Friday, Dec. 30. Out of the 24 teams, nine are new entries: Aurora Christian, Belvidere, Burlington Central, Dixon, Indian Creek, Lisle, Indian Creek, Ottawa, Streator and Wilmington.