Regional crown down, sectional final to go for girls after three wins
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—For a squad that has gone largely untested for the position it’s in, Kaneland girls basketball showed it belongs in a mid-February basketball setting.
With a regional semfinal win over IMSA on Feb. 15, followed by a regional title win over Yorkville on Thursday, the Lady Knights improved to 20-9, thus far with perhaps their most impressive late-season win—a 40-31 stifling of fellow one-seed Hampshire on Monday evening in the Sycamore Sectional.
The stars are set to collide in a Thursday, Feb. 23, sectional final against the Blue Thunder of Belvidere North High School at 7:30 p.m. Belvidere North defeated NIB-12 stalwart Sterling in the opening matchup of Monday’s doubleheader, 41-40.
Against the Lady Whip-purs, the Lady Knights were paced with 12 points from Allyson O’Herron and 11 points from Ashley Prost. The Lady Knights employed sound passing and making the most of opportunities on the offensive end, while confounding Hampshire on the defensive end. That led to an 11-2 lead after the first quarter and a sizable 21-6 lead after the first half.
The first half was indicative of winning performances all year, but not on this important a stage.
“We’re not going to set any records on offense, but we can lock you down on defense when we feel like it,” Colombe said.
Colombe felt more of the same needed to happen in order for Hampshire, very unlikely to be stuck at six points for the duration of the game, not to find itself back in the contest.
“That’s exactly what we told the girls at halftime. They’re going to score more than six points. We’re going to have to weather the storm a little bit and keep communicating on defense,” Colombe said.
The deficit got up to as much as 18 points when Prost’s baseline jumper made it 26-8 with 5:13 remaining in the third.
Hampshire then went on a 9-0 run over the next four minutes before O’Herron sunk two free throws with 53.8 ticks left.
After Sarah Grams stole a Hampshire pass and converted on a layup and three-point play, the Lady Knights enjoyed a 31-17 lead as the third frame ended.
Strangely, it would be the final field goal for KHS on a night in which the Lady Knights went 12-for-24 from the field.
In the fourth, it was a matter of possession and getting to the line, and Kaneland went 8-of-10. While Hampshire cut it to 37-29 with 1:53 to go, it would get not closer thanks to the free-throw efforts of O’Herron, Prost and Lauren Zick.
Keyed by the first-half, O’Herron thought the game was one of of the most complete efforts all year by Kaneland.
“We just went after them on defense, and we didn’t let them have anything,” O’Herron said. “That was a big part in holding them to six points in the first half; that was incredible.”
In Thursday’s 37-34 final win over Yorkville, the Lady Knights snagged revenge from the 45-42 frustration suffered at the hands of the Lady Foxes on Feb. 3. Prost was the only KHS player in double figures with 10, while Yorkville’s Jordan Dhuse had a game-high 20.
Kaneland benefited from two long-range bombs by O’Herron, coupled with a pair of foul shots and a late basket from Brooke Harner on the way to a 16-7 advantage after one quarter.
A Grams layup gave KHS its biggest lead of 18-8 with 6:02 remaining in the half, but a rally by Yorkville closed the game to 20-16 by halftime’s buzzer.
A Yorkville basket tied the game with 4:34 remaining in the third, but a three by O’Herron and three consecutive baskets by Prost gave Kaneland a 29-22 lead going into the fourth.
However, a furious Lady Foxes rally threatened to overwhelm Kaneland, and a 10-0 run by the two-seed made it a 32-29 deficit with 5:12 remaining.
Two Yorkville foul shots made it 34-31 with 2:32 remaining, but Kelly Evers’ putback with 2:19 to go closed it to within one.
The tide-turner was Emma Bradford’s putback in traffic of her own miss with 1:33 remaining, for a 35-34 lead.
“I just kind of took what they gave me. We didn’t have a lot of time left, and I had to keep composed,” Bradford said.
The scoring was capped with an outlet pass to Grams, who converted the bucket with 17 ticks left for the three-point edge.
Against IMSA in the regional semi, KHS was helped by a balanced scoring column and Grams’ nine points.
“We’re all excited, I mean it was one of our goals to get to a regional championship,” Grams said after the IMSA win. “We wanted to work on rebounding tonight and try to improve ourselves.”
Kaneland’s 30-15 halftime lead paved the way for better things. The Lady Knights were 24-of-47 from the field.