Photo: Kaneland boys varsity beat Newark 54-35 on Dec. 27 at the Plano 50th annual Christmas Classic tournament. No. 22 Dan Miller goes up and over his opponents for a score. Photo by Patti Wilk
by Mike Slodki
PLANO—Kaneland boys basketball is slowly but surely gelling again.
At the 50th running of the Plano Christmas Classic, that reality stood as an ominous warning to some teams and a statement of fact to the teams that bested the Knights.
Kaneland finished in fourth place, one spot worse than in 2011, but still continues to make strides with a healthy lineup and new faces.
Coupled with a win back on Dec. 22 against Sandwich, the Knights returned to action with a handy 47-29 win on Dec. 26, against sixth-seed Lisle. On Thursday, they handed Newark a 54-35 loss before losing to Ottawa on Friday, 60-50. Saturday’s third-place game saw Aurora Christian hand Kaneland a 54-46 loss.
Ottawa, a 10th seed, won the entire tournament with a 55-53 win over top-seed Belvidere on Saturday night.
With the 3-2 showing at the tourney, Kaneland’s record is now 6-6.
Against the Lisle Lions, Kaneland was led by Matt Limbrunner’s 23, Tyler Carlson’s 11 and John Pruett’s 10.
Two Limbrunner hoops gave KHS a 10-5 lead with under a minute left, but a technical foul on the Kaneland bench gave Lisle four foul shot attempts, only to convert on one of the tries. Kaneland led 10-8 at the first-quarter horn.
It was once again the Limbrunner show in the second quarter, with four of the five team baskets.
The senior was able to power down low to make it 19-12 with 3:02 to go in the half. After Lisle’s hoop 19 seconds later, Limbrunner went low for a 21-14 edge with 2:21 to play, closing out the first-half scoring.
KHS then went on a 13-4 run, taking care of the entire third frame. Back-to-back three pointers by Carlson grew the lead to 14 points with 29.1 left, and two Pruett foul shots with 15.8 to go made it 34-18 as the quarter wound down.
Baskets by Pruett and Limbrunner within the fourth quarter’s first minute made the lead 38-18, while free throws from Limbrunner, Dan Miller and Connor Fedderly iced the game.
Limbrunner and crew persevered against a higher seed and an up-tempo style of play for a handy win.
“It was nice; we knew they wanted to play fast,” Limbrunner said. “So we wanted to play our game, slow it down, and it worked out really well.”
KHS coach Brian Johnson was wary of the No. 6 seed in the Classic.
“We wanted to make sure we could control the tempo,” Johnson said. “Lisle is pretty athletic and big, and they want to get out and run.”
In the win over the Norsemen, Carlson paced the Knights with 16. Kaneland was ahead 15-3 after one frame and 26-18 at the halftime buzzer before leading 41-26 after three. KHS shot 17-for-38 in the win and 17-for-22 from the foul line.
In the loss against the eventual champ Pirates, Miller had a team-high 12, while Ottawa’s JD Bryant had 16 of his own.
Kaneland was plagued by a 19-for-53 day from the field. Ottawa was ahead 15-12 after one and 30-18 at the half before the Knights closed to within 39-33 after three.
Miller had a team-high 15 in the loss to the local rival Eagles in the tourney conclusion. Cory Windle had a game-high 16.
Kaneland was plagued by a 19-for-50 night from the field.
AC went up 22-9 after one frame and 36-24 after the first 16 minutes of play before the Knights closed to within 45-36, but a 10-9 fourth in favor of Kaneland wasn’t impactful enough.
Kaneland continues Northern Illinois Big XII action on Friday, Jan. 4, against visiting Yorkville.