by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—It’s tough to take three in a row against any opponent—much less in a competitive and tight Northern Illinois Big XII conference, and much less the Morris Redskins, who enjoy a stark homecourt advantage.
While Knights boys hoops blazed a comeback trail from a double-digit margin, too many possessions ended in turnovers and Morris took 46 trips to the foul line in a 67-58 setback.
The Knights fell to 10-6 with a 3-2 record in NIB-12 play.
Both teams were quite familiar with the charity stripe on Friday, with Morris converting 26-of-46 opportunities, and Kaneland making 21-of-28.
Morris’ Danny Friend scored 23 points to lead the home crew effort, while Kaneland was paced by the two-pronged 13-point output from Thomas Williams and Marcel Neil.
KHS coach Brian Johnson felt a flat start made things tough for his Knights.
“We needed to play with a greater energy level, and we needed to play defense with our feet instead of our hands,” Johnson said. “Tonight, Morris hit some nice shots and had a lot of and-1 putbacks, and when you have open shots, the shooter will make them.”
Making a point to spread the floor, Morris went out to a 17-7 lead in the first quarter before a basket by Neil with 29.5 seconds left closed the margin to 17-9 by the end of the first frame.
Three consecutive successful shots and a free throw gave Morris an 11-point lead in the second quarter, but the Knights used a three-point play from Williams and two free throws from Tyler Heinle to close to within 28-25 with 1:27 to go, but two more foul shots from Friend made the halftime margin 30-25.
Heinle made a couple of buckets, and John Pruett converted a shot to close within 43-42 with 36 seconds remaining in the third quarter before Morris increased the lead to 45-42 with eight minutes to play.
Two foul shots by Neil gave KHS a brief 46-45 lead with 7:07 to go. Three free throws sunk by Pruett and Williams sent the score to 50 each with 6:02 to play, but a Morris basket with 4:54 to go gave the Redskins a brief lead. Two Dan Miller free throws would tie the score at 52 with 4:26 to go, but Morris went on a tear, with a 12-4 run that ended with Kaneland’s last basket, a Miller shot with 49.1 to close within 64-58 before the final Morris points.
The varsity Knights host the Ottawa Pirates on Saturday, Jan. 21.