Tag Archives: Dennis Hansen

Willis joins many new softball faces

Photo: Sophomore pitcher Delani Vest will be counted on for a repeat performance. File Photo
by Mike Slodki
MAPLE PARK—Despite finishing 27-9 in 2009, the Kaneland High School girls softball squad faces quite a number of challenges.

There’s recovering from the heartbreaking extra-inning regional championship loss to Burlington Central, the third straight year of getting eliminated by the Rockets.

There’s the acclimation of seven new faces to the varsity ranks, with just six upperclassmen on the team.

There’s also the item of new and eager head coach Brian Willis, who also served time as an assistant after former coach Dennis Hansen was suspended.

Willis says not much has changed in his coaching style from being a lower-level coach in various Kaneland sports.

“Right now, it’s all excitement and anticipation,” Willis said. “We’re trying to get the girls ready. I look at this as no different than the last eight years, except I talk to reporters now.”

Willis is ready for the season-ending loss to be put in the rearview mirror.

“From that regional championship loss, there’s only two girls starting (Wednesday) that started that game. In a sense, that anxiety is there for girls like Delani (Vest) because she was the pitcher, but we have several freshmen and sophomores that weren’t around,” Willis said.

Notably, Vest returns after posting a 17-6 record as a freshman inside the pitcher’s circle, which itself is being moved back.

“That’s going to make a difference, and we’ll get to see how Delani will react to that. With her leadership and competitiveness, she knows what it takes to get back to that championship game,” Willis said.

The jury is still out on Delani’s sister and battery mate Rilee, who is battling nagging injuries.

Junior catcher Andrea Dimmig-Potts returns as someone who saw her share of playing time and was capable of doing damage with one giant swing.

Seniors on the squad are outfielder Jordan Hester, and infielders Brittany Davis and Kristen Stralka.

“We’re moving forward. These returning girls are excited to get a fair shot, and they feel like it’s their time,” Willis said.

Joining Vest as fellow hurlers look to be sophomore Alexis Villarreal and sophomore Katy Dudzinski, who saw spot starts in the varsity ranks a year ago, and sophomore Brittney Miller.

“It’s a new coaching staff (Willis, Christine Bouffard and Joe Spittzeri), and we evaluated everyone equally at the start. Delani put herself in the top spot, and some of these other girls aren’t too far behind,” Willis said.

Sophomore McKinzie Mangers will serve as catcher in case the other two possibilities are beset by injuries.

“We’ll be tested early behind the plate,” Willis said.

The infield will look younger on the left side and senior-laden on the right. Allyson O’Herron, a freshman, looks to contribute at shortstop.

“(O’Herron) is very solid defensively and will make some freshman mistakes, but she’s also solid with the bat,” Willis said.

Fellow freshman Taylor Velazquez will get a look at third base.

Davis will be looked at around second base to serve as a cornerstone of the infield. Spots remain in a fight for outfield.

In terms of players who will see more sizable time this season and could surprise onlookers is Davis.

“She’s going to get out there every day and put up solid numbers and be a good player,” Willis said.

On the new arrivals, Willis pointed to O’Herron having a productive career at short for the next four years.

Other Lady Knights looking to contribute to the squad are sophomore infielder Sarah Kitz, sophomore outfielder Samantha Hansen and junior infielder Beth Smith.

“If we finish in the middle of the conference and continue to get better every week and regionals come around and we’re ready to roll, that’ll make me happy,” Willis said.

The regular season kicked off yesterday against BC, and WSC play begins on Tuesday, April 6, at Glenbard South. The regular season finale is Saturday, May 22, at Rosary.

What about Brian?

West Aurora import eager to get Knights rolling
MAPLE PARK—Tuesday morning had the usual cast of characters when it comes to KHS boys basketball.

Your Dudzinskis and your Bayleys were there at the East Gym, but the gray-shirted player leading the camp was a new face.

Getting in the action and giving instruction to the Kaneland players, however, made him look like he’s always been part of the fabric.

Meet Brian Johnson, the new head varsity basketball coach for the Kaneland Knights.

Johnson was offered the position last week and accepted, with the word officially coming down at the Kaneland School Board meeting on Monday. KHS sent out a press release detailing the appointment.

Johnson comes to the Knights after being a varsity assistant at West Aurora.

Johnson, who is set to teach P.E. and drivers Ed, takes over for Dennis Hansen, whose resignation was accepted after three years of coaching.

“It’s definitely a unique situation,” Johnson said. “All I can ask the guys is to make the adjustment. I don’t know what happened before 100 percent, but I can only let the guys know what I expect of them and ask them to give me their best.”

Johnson, a Sugar Grove resident, is no stranger to the court, having played at St. Edward High School and Judson College, both in Elgin, at the next level.

“We used to play Kaneland at regional time in high school. It was time to get to a place that I admired from a distance. I want to coach kids that have the type of mentality that I had as a player and work hard all the time,”Johnson said.

Johnson led the players through a two-hour camp that concludes with everyone shaking hands. A little touch that he doesn’t take complete credit for.

“I stole that from Lance Huber over at Dundee-Crown, who I had the pleasure and honor of working with for six years. It’s that blue-collar thing. We work hard, we’re still teammates, we shake it out afterwards.”

Johnson knows that the feeling-out process has to end soon and then preparation for the 2009-10 season begins.

“I know we have some players who are highly-touted. We’re going to use that to the best of our ability.

The Knights finished 13-13 in 2007-08 and lost in their opening round contest in February to Hampshire, 47-38.

Photo: New Kaneland High School varsity boys basketball head coach Brian
Johnson gets down to business during Tuesday morning’s basketball camp at KHS. Johnson, who comes over from West Aurora, will also teach P.E. and drivers ed. Photo by Mike Slodki

Search ends for Knights hoops, confirmed Monday

by Mike Slodki
MAPLE PARK—Kaneland High School has completed its month-long search for a new varsity boys basketball coach.

While not divulging the name of the winning candidate for the position, KHS athletics director Leigh Jaffke confirms that the position was offered to a specific candidate and it was accepted.

The appointment needs to be confirmed at the next Kaneland School Board meeting on Monday, June 22.

A new Knights hoops head coach was hoped to be in place by the newly rescheduled boys basketball camp at KHS by Monday, June 22.

Former head coach Dennis Hansen’s resignation was accepted at the June 4 board meeting after a School Board investingation into inappropriate contact with students.

Hansen was also head coach of the Kaneland softball team.

Hansen took over the boys basketball job starting in the 2006-07 season for former coach Brian Rea.

Kaneland Board accepts coach’s resignation

by Susan O’Neill

The Kaneland School Board on Thursday voted to accept the resignation of Kaneland High School coach and teacher Dennis Hansen. The vote was 5-1 in favor of both approving the separation agreement and of accepting Hansen’s resignation.

The dissenting vote was School Board member Deborah Grant, who said her vote was “in light of recent e-mails that the district has received and in lieu of additional information that may come forth.”

Hansen had been suspended from his coaching duties on May 7 and from his teaching responsibilities on May 11. The suspensions and a subsequent investigation were based on allegations made by parents, current students and graduates regarding inappropriate behavior toward students.

The six- to eight-week investigation conducted by Kane County Sheriff’s Police Resource Officer Paul Warren and school officials on behalf of the district uncovered allegations in both the teaching and coaching realm and involved about a dozen current students and recent graduates during the past couple of years, as well as several graduates who had been students in 2001.

According to school officials, the district was not made aware of the 2001 behaviors until the recent investigation, and no information was brought forth from the years in between the two timeframes. Attorney Maureen Lemon, representing the district, said the initial allegations were brought to the resource officer.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jeff Schuler said that none of the behavior rose to the level of requiring notification to the Department of Children and Family Services, and no laws were broken. Lemon said the investigation also looked into his previous employment in Coal City schools and found no connection with the investigation at Kaneland.

Hansen has been with the district for 12 years as a physical education and driver’s education teacher, and more recently as a coach of the varsity girl’s softball and boy’s basketball teams.

The separation agreement specifies salary and health benefits payments to Hansen, per the teacher’s contract, through Aug. 31, 2009, and includes an agreement that neither party shall litigate against the other. It also spells out the wording for any references given to future prospective employers in writing. The reference only identifies his dates of employment and that he resigned.

Although the employment reference wording is factual and neutral, School District Superintendent Charlie McCormick explained that, for those in the education industry, that wording would be considered a red flag.

McCormick said the district decided to accept the agreement offered by Hansen in lieu of further investigation and potential termination of his employment for three reasons. First, any additional action could be appealed and overturned; second, it would involve uncomfortable situations for the students, who would be subjected to cross-examination; and three, Hansen’s resignation was the ultimate outcome the board wanted.

The investigation also brought to light a whole range of policies, procedures, climate and culture that will need to be addressed with teachers, students and parents, McCormick said.

“The current technology has outstripped our ethics,” he said.

For example, coaches typically have their students’ phone numbers listed in their cell phones and will use them to text students to notify them of a game cancellation.

Sugar Grove resident and KHS graduate Jennifer Amery, who is the parent of an 8-year-old, said she was not happy with the way the situation was handled. She said that Kaneland could just be passing on its problem to another school.

“How about a big red check on his resume?” she asked.

See the June 11 edition of the Elburn Herald for additional reporting.

Coach relieved of duties—Investigation pending

by Lynn Meredith
With less than two weeks to the playoffs, Dennis Hansen, coach of the Kaneland High School girls’ softball team, was relieved Tuesday of his teaching and coaching duties for the remainder of the year.

The administration declined to state a reason for the action, pending the outcome of an investigation, but said that it stemmed from a complaint.

“It was brought to our attention by a parent, student—a family complaint,” Superintendent Charlie McCormick said.

The district office had been talking with the high school administration during the middle and end of last week about the complaint.

The School Board gives the administration the authority to handle these type of decisions.

“It was an administrative call,” School Board member Cheryl Krauspe said. “Any (formal) action will be taken during open session (board meeting).”

Krauspe said she did not know all the details and could not comment.

The athletic department will look to the coaching staff to cover the rest of the season.

“We’re making changes in the coaching assignments to ensure we have proper coaching,” McCormick said.

Hansen has coached girls’ softball for 12 seasons with a 224-128 record. He also coaches boys’ basketball, and teaches drivers’ education and physical education classes. McCormick said that an appropriate substitute teacher will take over those classes.

Lady Knights softball falls short vs. Geneva

by Mike Slodki
In a deadlocked softball game that was going down to the wire, any late run would do.

Unfortunately for Kaneland, the late runs were had by the visiting Geneva lineup.

A two-base error led to two runs coming home for the Lady Knights’ WSC rival in a 2-0 defeat on Tuesday.

The runs, which were scored in the top of the sixth inning, were the only runs in a contest that featured just five hits and 10 strikeouts combined.

KHS fell to 14-6 with a 5-3 record in Western Sun Conference play.

Delani Vest was tagged as the losing pitcher and fell to 9-3, despite eight K’s and just one walk.

The lone hits for the Lady Knights were a fifth-inning double by Chassidy Mangers and a third-inning single by Kristen Stralka.

“We were swinging at bad pitches, and we weren’t patient,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “The hitters were getting behind in the count, and no one really hit the ball hard.”

Geneva’s opportunity came in the top of the sixth when, with two runners on, a two-out ball went over the head of right fielder Jordan Herra, allowing the runners to score.

The Lady Knights’ last chance ended when Mangers grounded to second with a runner at second base to end the game.

The sophomores lost to Geneva 2-1, and the freshmen trounced the Lady Vikings 16-4 in five innings.

Kaneland goes to DeKalb on Thursday, May 7.

Photo: Kaneland first baseman Kristen Stralka looks to snag a throw from pitcher Delani Vest during Tuesday’s 2-0 conference loss to Geneva. Photo by John DiDonna

Softball makes life difficult for opponents

KHS 3-1 in WSC skirmishes
by Mike Slodki
Lady Knights softball had itself a productive week, and in the process, elevated its record to a nice 10-4.

The Lady Knights, who are also 3-1 in Western Sun Conference play, vanquished the host Maine West Warriors in a Saturday doubleheader, 3-0 and 5-0. Preceding that was a 6-1 win over the host Yorkville Foxes on Thursday. Kaneland began the week as road warriors with an 11-1, five-inning win over host Wheaton Academy on Wednesday, April 15.

In the first game of the doubleheader in Des Plaines, hurler Delani Vest (6-1) scattered just four hits and struck out five.

Sara Rose (2-for-3), Vest (2-for-4) and Jessica Lubic (2-for-3) smacked doubles, while Rose and Mangers parked pitches over the fence for home runs.

The Lady Knights scored single runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings.

Senior Mallory Huml (3-3) put on a clinic in game two, allowing just two hits and fanning nine. Kaneland put up a three-spot in the third inning while scoring two additional runs in the seventh.

Andrea Potts went 2-for-3 with two RBI and Tara Groen went 2-for-3.

Against Yorkville, Kaneland scored three runs in the top of the first thanks to an RBIs double to dead-center by Rose, Potts reaching on an error that scored Rose and a run-scoring single by Lubic.

Yorkville threatened in the bottom of the first by loading the bases but couldn’t score.

Kaneland scored three more in the third. Rose doubled and later came home on an error by the shortstop. Rilee Vest then drove home a run with a grounder, and Jordan Herra reached on another error that scored Lubic, who had previously singled.

“We’ve done a pretty good job this last week of hitting the ball,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said after the output on Thursday. “We get some people hot up and down the order, and our pitching has been good.”

Vest, only a freshman and counted on for big innings, has come through thus far.

“My screwball was really working today. I struck out a lot of girls with that. It’s different every game depending on how I warm up. Whatever works in the first inning, I try to stick with that,” said Vest, who K’d eight Lady Foxes.

Against Wheaton Academy, Huml struck out seven batters and walked just one while giving up just three hits. Kaneland scored in every inning, including five times in the first and three in the second.

Potts had a huge day at the plate, going 4-for-4 with a double and four driven in. Huml also went 3-for-4 with an RBI.

Lower class action this past week saw the sophomores sweep a doubleheader at Maine West by 11-10 and 10-5 finals.

In game one, Beth Smith improved to 5-0 with a nine-strikeout day. Katy Dudzinski went 3-for-4 with a homer. The Lady Knights scored six times in the top of the seventh to secure the win.

Game two had Dudzinski pitch four innings for the win (4-2). Brooke Thompson went 2-for-3 with a triple and Lindsay Jurcenko go 2-for-4.

The freshmen swept the doubleheader vs. Maine West at Kaneland by scores of 14-3 (five innings) and 14-4 (six innings).

Sarah McGinnis and Brittney Miller earned wins for the Lady Knights.

Ahead for Kaneland varsity is a road venture to Rochelle on Thursday, April 23, and a trip to Woodstock on Saturday, April 25.

Photo: Kaneland pitcher Delani Vest crashes into her sister, catcher Rilee Vest, as they both went after a fly ball in the sixth inning against DeKalb on April 14. Kaneland won the home game 9-4. Photo by John DiDonna

Softball enjoys 3-game win streak

by Mike Slodki
On a windswept sunny Saturday, Kaneland softball kept Oswego’s head spinning.

A steady sweep, 17-0 in a six-inning game one, and 3-1 in game two. An additional 5-4 victory in eight innings over Glenbard South on Tuesday elevated Kaneland’s mark to 4-1 (1-0 Western Sun Conference).

In the first game, freshman hurler Delani Vest improved to 2-0 while striking out four batters.

Vest also went 3-for-4 while Brittany Davis went 2-for-3.

The Lady Knights scored one run in the first inning and one in the third inning. A five-run fourth inning made it 7-0. Up 8-0, Kaneland poured on the offense and put up nine runs to send the game into retirement early.

In game two, Kaneland put up a three-spot in the third inning and freshmen Katy Dudzinski gave up only one run in her first varsity start en route to a 3-1 win.

Vest went 2-for-3 at the plate, while Tara Groen went 1-for-3 with two RBI.

The two freshmen pitchers did their part in place of pitching staff anchor Mallory Huml, away in Texas as part of a choir competition.

“They both did well,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “Usually, we’re fighting to find pitchers. We didn’t hit as well in the second game, but we got what we needed.”

The three-run rally in the top of the second inning began with a leadoff double by Andrea Potts and a single by Vest. Rightfielder Kristen Stralka drove Potts home with an RBI single for a 1-0 lead. After a passed ball put runners at second and third, centerfielder Groen knocked a single to bring the other two runs in.

The Lady Knights were supposed to battle Sandwich on Monday, but the game was postponed due to weather.

Against the visiting Raiders, Kaneland found itself down 4-0 until scoring two runs in the fifth, two in the sixth and one in the eighth for the win.

Huml earned her first win of the season on the mound and struck out three. Sara Rose went 2-for-5 with a double and RBI. Potts went 1-for-4 with a two run double.

Kaneland was set to visit the Hoffman Estates Hawks on Wednesday before heading to Geneva for a Western Sun Conference clash on Thursday, April 9.

Photo: Delani Vest, seen throwing in the first game of a Saturday softball doubleheader at Oswego High School, delivers a winning effort in the 17-0 rout. Photo by Mary Herra

Spring Sports Preview: Strong returning core best hope for KHS softball

by Mike Slodki
While Kaneland girls softball had a successful 2008 season at 23-7 and pulled out a gritty 1-0 win over Rosary in a regional semifinal, it lost a heartbreaker in the championship to Burlington Central.

Now, KHS coach Dennis Hansen hopes the team takes all from last year, good and bad, and uses it for a springboard.

“We hopefully build on last year; it’s a different team and we have some new people waiting to step up,” Hansen said. “We have some girls playing new positions and will have a little more speed.”

Kaneland’s pitching factors in whatever success the Lady Knights have in ’09, and it starts with ace Mallory Huml (17-4 in 2008, 0-1 in 2009). “Her curve is what she does best, and we also have Delaney Vest, who got the win in the opener. She’ll try the outfield, as well,” Hansen said.

With Huml among the seven returning players, the Lady Knights also see the return of four-year starters Brianna Hurst (2B) and Sara Rose (SS), Chassidy Mangers, Jordan Herra, Erin Heyob and Jessica Lubic.

“Lubic is a good hitter who got some experience a year ago, and we expect big things at first base,” Hansen said.
In the outfield, a combination of Mangers, Vest, Herra and Jordan Hester look to patrol.

Andrea Dimmig-Potts will get a shot at third, and Rilee Vest sets up behind the plate.

Junior Kristen Stralka is in the outfield, junior Tara Groen joins her in that spot, junior Brittany Davis is at second and junior Erin Rocha is also in the outfield.

Hansen hopes the defense can become a strength.

“We have some things to work on based on the first two games, and hopefully it’ll be solid,” Hansen said.

Kaneland looks to do battle with tough Western Sun Conference squads, with some having a different look.

“Glenbard South went to State, lost some key people, but they can rebuild in a hurry. Sycamore could do well and DeKalb could surprise people,” Hansen said.

When 2009’s story gets told, the Lady Knights look to meet, step up to and surpass the challenges that met them in ’08.

“We came up against some good pitchers at the end, and we want to beat teams like that this year,” Hansen said.

Photo: Senior Mallory Huml fields some sharp ground balls at Tuesday’s softball practice in the Kaneland High School gym. Photo by Mary Herra

KHS dropped by Hampshire in regional

by Mike Slodki
As much as the five-game winning streak a month ago represented good times, these last three games had the look of a hard-luck end.

Wednesday, March 4, saw Hampshire beat Kaneland for the second time this season, in a 47-38 result at the Burlington Central Regional in Class 3A. Wheaton Academy then went on to defeat the Whip-purs on Friday night in Rocket-land, 47-42 to capture the regional title.

Sharp-shooting Mike Pritchard provided boosts throughout the game for the Knights and kept them in the fight with a game-high 15 points. Christian Dillon had eight and Dave Dudzinski was kept to seven points in the season finale.

“Outside of Mike, we really had no offense,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “He kept us in the game all night long.”

Last season saw Kaneland lose in a 56-55 regional skirmish with BC to end its season.

The Knights end at 13-13 (5-9 Western Sun Conference), which is a three-game improvement from a year ago.

Throughout the game, it was evident that Hampshire was going to be effective in shutting the inside game of the Knights. Kaneland was then forced to try outside shooting, but clanked its first four tries. A feed from Dudzinski to Dillon with 1:28 remaining in the first gave KHS an 8-7 lead until Hampshire’s basket with 56 seconds in the frame sent Kaneland down 9-8.

Pritchard came to life in the second quarter and accounted for all the points by the Knights. A field goal 25 seconds into the quarter gave Kaneland a 10-9 lead. Another jumpshot with 5:47 to go tied the score at 12-12, and a fadeaway gave Kaneland a 14-12 lead with 4:20 to go before Hampshire closed the half on a 6-0 run for an 18-14 deficit. A Pritchard three-pointer with 6:27 to go closed within 20-17, but a Steve Colombe shot and a Dillon basket off the glass were the only other field goals of the quarter. The Knights trailed 28-22 with eight minutes remaining.

Dealing with several six-point leads throughout the contest, a Hampshire trey made it 31-22 just 11 seconds into the frame. Pritchard’s additional three closed it to 31-25 with 7:05 to go. Brody Root’s bucket with 6:18 remaining closed within 31-27, but Hampshire held the Knights at bay, even extending the lead to 46-36 on two free throws with 29 seconds to go.

After the conclusion of the game, Kaneland said goodbye to seniors Chris Ott, Joe Spitzzeri, Lubic, Ryan Blake, Pritchard, Root and Dillon, all of whom saw valuable time on the floor in 2008-09.

“All seven are class acts,” Hansen said. “They’re good kids, they’ve got good work ethic, and they’ve been the heart and soul of our team all year.”

Disputed ending leads to Knights loss vs. Batavia

by Mike Slodki
On Friday night, Kaneland fans thought Mike Pritchard’s impossible shot at the end of regulation was a three-pointer.

So did the Kaneland Knights, and for that matter, so did Batavia.

The only two people who’s opinion on the matter actually counted was the referees, and they ruled Pritchard’s pump-fake trey try in the face of the Batavia defense was, in fact, a two-point basket.

The ruling allowed Batavia to exit Maple Park with a 54-53 win in the regular season finale. Footage taken by the Kaneland basketball team on video-camera showed while Pritchard landed inside the three-point arc, he took off from beyond the line.

Batavia finished at 18-7 on the regular season, while Kaneland’s final matchup of the year brought its record down to 13-12 (5-9 Western Sun Conference).

While the second season is about to begin for KHS, the sting of the regular season’s finale’s in was still raw after the conclusion of Friday night.

“It’s not right, and it’s not fair to the seniors,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “They bust their butts for four months for this night. We’ll be ticked for a while, but we need to get ready for Wednesday against Hampshire.”

Batavia’s Ben Potter had a game-high 21 points which included five three-pointers. The Bulldogs sunk 12 long range bombs on the night, compared to only four two-point buckets. David Bryant had 16 points.

Dave Dudzinski led the Knights with 19 points, while Brody Root added 10.

Up 48-44 in the fourth quarter, Potter hit a three pointer with 3:29 to go to cut it to 48-47. Dudzinski hit a twisting layup off the glass to go up 50-47 with 3:16 to go. Potter hit another shot to cut it to 50-49 with 2:11 left. Less than a minute later, Bryant was fouled on a three-point attempt and hit the ensuing foul shots to give Batavia a 52-50 lead with 1:39 to go. It was the Bulldogs’ first advantage since 3:47 remaining in the third. Dudzinski was fouled with 13:4 seconds left on a set play, but could only sink one of two free throws, and Bryant snagged the rebound and was fouled.

After Bryant hit the two opportunities and gave the Bulldogs a 54-51 lead with 12.7 seconds to go, it set in motion the final sequence.

Kaneland led and the end of the first quarter thanks to Dudzinski’s shot off the glass with 19.9 seconds left to make it 11-10.

Down 25-23 in the second quarter, Ryan Blake nailed a three-pointer with 1:31 left and Root soon followed with a coast-to-coast drive with 56.7 to go to go up 28-25 before the break.

Kaneland’s biggest lead came after a Joe Spitzzeri trifecta with 6:39 left in the third for a 31-25 lead.

The Knights were set to tangle with Hampshire on Wednesday at the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional. The second-seeded Knights last played the third-seeded (17-8) Whip-purs in a 51-44 loss on Jan. 31. KHS defeated Hampshire 51-43 on Dec. 27.

The winner faces Wheaton Academy, who beat Sycamore 66-48 on Tuesday in the regional final on Friday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Story Update: The Knights suffered a 47-38 loss to Hampshire at the Burlington Central Regional Wednesday night, ending their season. They finished with a final record of 13-13.

Photo: Kaneland varsity center Christian Dillon gets a rebound in the fourth quarter of their senior night game against Batavia on Friday. The game ended in a close 54-53 Kaneland loss. Photo by John DiDonna

Hampshire ends Lady Knights’ quest in regional semifinal

by Mike Slodki
With every silver lining, sometimes comes a cloud.

In the case of Kaneland girls basketball nabbing its first postseason win since the 2004-2005 campaign, the Lady Knights saw its campaign come to a halt with the very next contest.

The win came over Illinois Math & Science Academy on Monday during the IHSA Class 3A opening round game in a 57-34 affair, but lost to the No. 1-seeded Hampshire Lady Whip-purs on Tuesday, 60-42.

The Lady Knights also dropped a 51-37 matchup to host Sycamore on Friday night in the final regular season game.

Kaneland’s final mark of 2008-2009 is 8-19 (3-11 Western Sun Conference), a two-game dropoff from a year ago.

Kaneland’s playoff adversary was also the team’s first opponent back in Nov., with much the same result. The Whip-purs, who began the season ranked eighth in Class 3A, bested the Lady Knights 59-39 in the season opener.

“I can’t fault our effort or anything,” KHS coach Ernie Colombe said. “The keys to the game were going to be limiting turnovers on offense and not giving up layups, and we did both. We didn’t get either accomplished and that’s how they hurt us the first game.”

Buckets by Alex Dumoulin and Christine Schumacher keyed a 9-0 run to start the game for Hampshire. Katie Hatch’s two free throws with 4:32 remaining closed to within 9-2 in the first before Hampshire went on an 8-2 tear to lead 17-4 with 1:43 to go. Hatch and the rising Mallory Carlson scored baskets as time ran out to set it at 17-8 after the first eight minutes.

High-percentage shots by Alyssa Galvan began the second quarter and closed to within 17-12 with just 34 seconds elapsed in the second, and a Brianna Hurst shot with 4:52 to go cut the lead to 21-15 before Hampshire went on a tear as Dumoulin and Heine hit baskets that highlighted an 8-0 ruin and a 29-15 lead with 1:32 to go. Hampshire led 31-18 going into the locker room.

A Schumacher three made it 38-20 with 6:01 to go, and the Whip-purs kept the press on while converting on opportunities down the floor for a 48-25 lead with 1:42 to go. Schumacher’s two foul shots with no time left in the third doubled the Lady Knights at 52-26.

Kaneland hit 7-of-8 foul shots and outscored Hampshire 16-8 in the final quarter, but it was too late. The final bucket of the season was by sophomore call-up Nikki Ott with 28.4 seconds to go.

The Lady Knights had one last hurrah in a playoff setting, and Carlson led the troops with 12 points, while Galvan added 10. Sara Rose had five steals to go along with eight points. Kaneland went 25-for-53 from the field and 5-for-7 from the foul line. IMSA’s Sapna Patel led the Titans with 12 points.

Rapid-fire baskets by Hatch, Andie Strang and Kelly Evers again gave Kaneland a quick 8-0 lead just two minutes in. KHS went out to a 14-0 lead at the 4:42 mark before IMSA finally got on the board, and the Lady Knights led 20-5 after one. Nine steals highlighted the first-quarter fireworks.

Kaneland continued the barrage in the second quarter thanks to eight points in a row by Carlson. The junior scored eight out of 10 in a stretch that turned into a 33-13 halftime lead.

Two shots by Mallory Huml gave the Lady Knights a 48-18 lead before IMSA closed to within 48-23 by the end of the quarter. CeCe Anderson’s shot with 1:11 to go in the game gave KHS the biggest lead of the game at 55-34.

In the WSC tussle against the Spartans, Hurst led the charge with 10 points, and the Lady Knights were 10-for-15 from the line. The game was deadlocked at 8-8 after one before Sycamore took a 22-17 lead at halftime. Sycamore continued the trend at 30-23 after the third before stifling Kaneland enough for the win.

With the conclusion of the campaign, the Lady Knights say goodbye to seven seniors, including four-year varsity member Hatch, the lone holdover from the Dennis Hansen era.

“We’re going to miss her on the court as well as off,” Colombe said. “The seniors were great kids and we’ll miss having them around.”

Hatch joins Hurst, Huml, injured senior Chassidy Mangers, Anderson, Rose and Galvan as Lady Knights who played their final contest.

“We all worked hard,” Hatch said. “We tried our best, even if things didn’t work out the way we wanted to tonight.”

Photo: Katie Hatch tries to get a shot in the fourth period of the Kaneland girl’s varsity game at Sycamore on Friday. Sycamore won the contest 51-37. Photo by John DiDonna

Knight boys work over foes for 3 straight wins

by Mike Slodki
When the Knights basketball squad struggles, according to coach Dennis Hansen, they really struggle.

The same could be said when they stack wins, case in point this past week.

Kaneland saw its mark improve to 11-10 with a 4-7 record in Western Sun Conference play; this after taking care of host Yorkville on Friday in a 53-35 affair, and stumped Sycamore 68-50 at home on Saturday before hammering visiting Marengo on Tuesday 56-34.

“Our mental state was kind of bad before we started winning, but we started stepping up and executing a lot better,” Hansen said.

Against the Foxes, Dave Dudzinski had 15 points and Christian Dillon added nine. Kaneland’s victory came despite the Knights going just 13-for-27 from the free throw line.

Kaneland outscored YHS 12-7 in the first and maintained a 19-14 lead at the half. Kaneland ran roughshod on Yorkville in the third and led 32-17 at the end of the frame.

Dudzinski had a pivotal game vs. the Spartans as he poured in 28 points from the floor, while teammate Ryan Blake added 14.

KHS led 18-15 after the first quarter but trailed 29-26 at the half before turning it on the third quarter to go up 42-41. The Knights’ 26-9 fourth quarter sealed the deal.

Kaneland’s night against the visiting Indians started out with a flurry of baskets by Mike Pritchard and Dudzinski to go up 9-0 four minutes, 24 seconds into the contest.

The host offense found more paydirt with a basket from Dillon, two foul shots by Dudzinski and a three-pointer by Blake for a 16-2 lead with 1:48 remaining. The Knights led 16-6 after one quarter. Another trey by Blake increased the lead to 19-6 just 53 seconds into the next frame. Ryley Bailey’s three-point shot gave Kaneland its biggest lead of the half at 28-9 with 1:44 to go before the margin reached 30-12 at the end of the half.

Up 39-20 in the third quarter, Pritchard got a putback, Steve Colombe hit a three and Pritchard nailed the back-end of a trip to the foul line to go up 45-20 with 1:17 left in the third. KHS led 45-22 after the buzzer. The Knights went scoreless from 1:17 in the third until 3:52 in the fourth when Dudzinski hit a foul shot.

“I think we did what we had to do and played good, solid defense and just held onto it the whole game,” Hansen said on Tuesday.

While Dudzinski had a solid 15 points, he played just a little over half the game, allowing for needed rest, and passed the ball when needed after constant double-and-triple teaming.

“If they’re going to do that, I have confidence in these guys. We did what we had to do, spread the ball around and make shots,” Dudzinski said.

Eleven Knights reached the scoring column against the Indians.

The sophomores also defeated Marengo 44-37.

The Knights have their next challenge on Friday, Feb. 13, at Sycamore, and also travel to Aurora on Valentine’s Day to face Marmion Academy.

Knight boys handled by Rochelle, Hampshire

by Mike Slodki
Boys basketball hit a week’s worth of struggles, but the silver lining is that there remains time to emerge from it on a high note.

On Friday night, Rochelle defeated the host Knights in a 69-59 affair that featured a combined 65 foul shots for both squads.

KHS followed that up with a Saturday afternoon loss at the new Hampshire High School gym, 51-44.

The Knights are now 8-10 with a 2-7 record in Western Sun Conference play.

Dave Dudzinski had 31 points vs. the Hubs, including going 19-for-22 from the foul line.

Andy Wilkinson had a stellar night for Rochelle, going 15-for-16 from the line and ending up with 38 points.

Rochelle led 14-11 after one and Kaneland came back to tie the score at 27 all at halftime. Rochelle led 47-41 after three before cinching it in the fourth.

In lower class action, Rochelle defeated the sophomores 51-43.

Against the Whip-purs, Dudzinski had 15 points, while Christian Dillon had 10.

The Knights saw themselves get out to a hot start highlighted by four straight successful shots to go up 9-8, and a Chris Ott three-pointer with 4:31 to play in the quarter to go up 12-8.

Hampshire recovered and took advantage of 10 straight missed shots by KHS. The Whip-purs had an 11-0 run go their way and led 19-12 at the end of the frame.

Chaon Denlinger hit two foul shots with 5:22 to go and Dudzinski hit two more with 3:09, but by the time the center hit the Knights’ first field goal of the quarter with 2:07 remaining, KHS was down 21-18.

Hampshire led 24-20 at the half.

Both teams traded baskets in the third quarter, and while Dudzinski cut the Hampshire lead to 31-30, Hampshire scored the last eight points to go up 39-30 after three.

Hampshire hit seven of eight foul shots to pad their lead, and Denlinger cut the lead to 49-44 with 29.4 left, but it was too late.

“We were trying to get inside all game, and they were really clamping down,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “They forced us to shoot, and we weren’t shooting very well. There were a lot of missed shots and we got behind.”

Kaneland takes its attack to Yorkville on Friday, Feb. 6, and hosts Sycamore on Saturday, Feb. 7.

Loss to DeKalb drops boys hoops to .500

by Mike Slodki
DeKalb boys basketball is surging lately, and not even Kaneland could stand in their way on Friday night.

Kaneland fell victim to DeKalb’s defense and struggled to find its own offensive groove in the 50-37 loss.

DeKalb has gone on a tear after starting out 0-4 this season. They have now won nine contests in a row to improve to 11-6 (6-1 Western Sun Conference). Kaneland fell to 8-8 with a 2-5 mark in the Western Sun Conference.

For Kaneland, Dave Dudzinski had 13 points and Mike Pritchard added seven. Dudzinski’s post nemesis Jordan Threloff had a game-high 20.

“We took poor shots and didn’t make shots,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “For the most part, we played pretty good defense, but then we got behind and we had to force the issue. DeKalb’s quick, and we needed to contain them.”

Kaneland’s evening began with seven of its first nine shots missing, but did gather four steals to keep DeKalb from extending its 8-4 lead after the first eight minutes.

A three-pointer by Ryan Blake and a baseline jumper by Chaon Denlinger closed to within 10-9 with 6:20 to go.

As the defensive battle continued, Dudzinski hit a jumper with 5:01 to go in the half to close within 15-11. Dudzinski’s three-point play and two foul shots by Pritchard chiseled into the Barbs’ lead at halftime, 19-16.

The third quarter went all Barbs as they outscored KHS 16-9 while setting the tone with their defense. DeKalb scored the first seven points of the quarter before Pritchard’s three with 5:11 left made it 26-19.

Kaneland fell behind 33-21 before Dudzinski’s two free throws with 59 seconds to go closed within 10. DeKalb led after three 35-25.

Ryley Bailey’s three-pointer with 5:26 to go made a game of it again at 35-31, but DeKalb’s 13-3 run, which concluded with a Threloff pair of foul shots with 1:02 left, cinched matters.

“When you struggle putting the ball in the basket and score 37 points, you can’t win,” Hansen said. Kaneland is now 0-8 when scoring under 50 points.

In sophomore action, the Knights dropped a 57-42 result to visiting DeKalb on Thursday.

Taylor Andrews had 11 points, and Omarr Maldonado and Zach Ringhouse had 10 each.

The Knights host Rochelle in a WSC clash on Friday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. and visit Hampshire at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31.

Photo: Christian Dillon tries driving past DeKalb force Jordan Threloff during Friday’s home loss to DeKalb. Photo by John DiDonna

Boys hoops getting big performances

KHS follows loss at Batavia with wins over BC, Rochelle

by Mike Slodki

Knights boys basketball wants this to keep going.

Not the snow, but the conference and nonconference wins alike.

KHS came back on Tuesday night at Rochelle 64-59.

Kaneland also found momentum throughout a 65-51 win vs. Burlington Central on Saturday, after succumbing to Batavia on the road, 54-38.

The Knights saw their record improve to 8-6, with a 2-4 mark in the Western Sun Conference.

Christian Dillon came through at the home of the Hubs with 17 points, followed by Brody Root with 14, which included an 8-for-8 night from the line, and Dave Dudzinski had 13 on the night.

The Knights started off with a 17-13 lead after the first eight minutes, but fell behind 30-25 at halftime. Kaneland closed within 37-33 before the final fourth quarter rally.

Dave Dudzinski had 16 points against the Rockets, while Mike Pritchard had 11 and Ryan Blake had 10.

Matt McCurdy led BC with 13.

The Knights went with a slightly different lineup to start matters with Steve Colombe, Joe Spitzzeri, Chaon Denlinger, Brody Root and Dudzinski, and it yielded benefits.

“We had a lot of guys step up tonight,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “We made some shots early and made the easy baskets.”

Burlington Central enjoyed an early 12-8 lead before Curtis Lubic nailed a shot with 51.7 seconds to go, cutting the lead to two.

The final sequence of the first frame had Lubic snare a steal and pull up for a successful three-pointer at the buzzer to go up 13-12 after one.

During a second quarter run, Dudzinski had a steal and six points which helped the Knights go up 26-19 with 4:40 to play in the half.

A shot by Christian DIllon and three consecutive buckets by Ryan Blake keyed a 9-0 run and a 35-19 lead with 2:47 to go before the Knights went into the locker room up 37-21.

The Knights increased their lead to 45-23 in the third quarter on a Denlinger lay-in with 2:06 remaining. Kaneland led 45-27 at the end of the third. The fourth quarter had Kaneland hitting seven out of eight shots down the stretch to cinch the win.

“We matched up well with Burlington Central,” Christian Dillon (6 points) said. “That second quarter was great and we really spread it out. Everyone got into the game.”

Against the formidable Bulldogs, Dudzinski had 19 points to lead Kaneland in a losing effort.

Batavia had an 11-8 lead after one and 24-22 after two. Kaneland fell victim to a third quarter that went 15-6 in Batavia’s favor before a 15-10 fourth quarter destroyed the Knights’ chances.

Lower class action had the sophomore boys lost a triple overtime game to Burlington Central on Saturday,79-73,falling to 2-10. Taylor Andrews led the Knights with 18 points, while Andrew O’Herron had 13.

On Friday night, Kaneland lost 50-23 to Batavia.

Rochelle handled the sophomores on Tuesday night, 38-31

Kaneland hopes to extend its winning ways on the varsity slate with a trip to Glenbard South on Friday, Jan. 16.

No Bull–Kaneland boys clash with Geneva at UC

Special setting fails to provide help in 58-39 loss vs. Vikings

by Mike Slodki

Add Dennis Hansen to the list of coaches that have patrolled the United Center sideline along with Phil Jackson and Vinny Del Negro.

Add Dave Dudzinski, Ryley Bailey, Ryan Blake and company to the list of players who have launched shots on the home floor of the Bulls.

Such was the case on New Year’s Eve on Madison St. as Kaneland and Geneva tipped off at 8:50 a.m. after introductions by p.a. announcer Tommy Edwards.

Unfortunately, the Knights fell short in the contest on an National Basketball Association floor, 58-39.

Kaneland got back on the winning track on Friday with a 61-48 win over visiting Yorkville, to raise its record to 6-5 and 1-3 in the Western Sun Conference.

Geneva was helped by Jeremy D’Amico’s 32 points, while Dudzinski had a team-high 15 points and 12 rebounds. Bailey had nine points.

Kaneland was behind 10-4 in the first quarter before a three pointer by Joe Spitzzeri with 20.5 ticks left to make it 10-7. D’Amico answered back with a trey of his own to go up 13-7 with 7.9 seconds left.

D’Amico hit three more long-range bombs to hurt the Knights, but Kaneland wouldn’t back away, as Dudzinski found more of a presence inside. He hit two baskets and a pair of foul shots to send Kaneland into the locker room down 31-19 at halftime.

Down 33-19 in the initial stage of the third frame, Kaneland charged back thanks to a basket and two free throws by Bailey, an offensive putback and a foul shot by Dudzinski and a shot by Brody Root. The flurry closed to within 34-30 with 2:21 to go, but Geneva used a trifecta and a steal to close the third on a 7-0 run and lead 41-30 after three.

“We made a few shots, got a few steals,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said concerning the mini-run. “We made a run, but we missed a couple easy shots.”

Geneva then went on a 10-5 run to go up 51-35 with 4:13 to cinch it.

Geneva’s biggest lead was 21 which occurred with half a minute remaining.

It’s a unique experience for any player to play at the home of the Bulls, and Kaneland seemed to be no exception.

“Yeah, they had their eyes wide open sometimes after taking a look at the court, but we didn’t play as well as we could have or should have,” Hansen said. “But the kids were excited about the opportunity to come here.”

In sophomore action against Geneva on Tuesday, the Knights lost 72-32, despite 16 points by Taylor Andrews.

Against the Foxes on Saturday, KHS went out to a 15-5 lead and a 31-17 lead at halftime. Yorkville closed the deficit to 41-33 after three, but KHS held firm.

Dudzinski led the Knight attack with 14 points, while Bailey had 12 thanks to three treys. Mike Pritchard added 11.

In sophomore action, Yorkville took the prize, 50-41.

Knights boys fall to Bogan in 12-team E. C. Nichols debut

Dudzinski scores 22 in opening contest of Marengo tournament

by Mike Slodki

            For awhile, the Kaneland boys basketball team played like it hadn’t seen the court in 17 days.

            Monday’s opener at the E.C. Nichols Tournament at Marengo High School had Kaneland struggling to do what it needed for any kind of edge against Chicago’s Bogan High School.

            By the time the Knights did find their footing, it was too late and KHS suffered a 55-44 loss to drop to 2-4 (0-2 Western Sun Conference).

            Last year’s opening game at the E.C. Nichols gathering saw Kaneland stomp Harvard 63-36 behind Nick Wagner’s 23 points on its way to a 2-2 fourth-place finish.

            For the Knights, Dave Dudzinski had a game-high 22 points, followed by Christian Dillon with seven. Kaneland also had a rare game without a three-pointer.

            “It took us a little while to get going and find our shots,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “Bottom line is we needed to shoot the ball better.”

            Bogan’s ball-movement and up-tempo offense had Kaneland reeling as the Knights also struggled to penetrate the Bengal defense. Down 12-6, KHS found a Dudzinski foul shot and a putback to close to within 12-9 with 30.6 second left in the first quarter before Bogan’s Myles Horton hit a buzzer-beater to go up 14-9 after one.

            Kaneland’s only field goal in the second quarter was a Steve Colombe jumper with 1:56 to go in the half to close within 23-17 before Bogan scored the final two baskets to go up 27-17 at halftime.

            Kaneland found itself down by 16 points at 37-21 with 2:24 to go, but Dudzinski’s shot and a buzzer-beater by Ryley Bailey closed to within 37-25 and gave the Knights some life.

            Bogan secured the lead by smart ball-control and hitting 9-of-10 foul shots to hold of the Knights. Kaneland managed to cut it to 39-29 on Dudzinski’s free throws with 6:52 to go, but six missed three-point attempts hindered the Kaneland comeback effort.

            Despite the loss, Kaneland’s Dudzinski had one of his stronger games of the young season.

            “He was calling for the ball more and getting inside to the basket and getting to the line and that’s what we like to see,” Hansen said.

            It was also nice for the team to get back on the court after weather cancellations and the loss of two classmates and friends.

            “It still weighs on our minds and it was nice to get back to what we need to do and that’s fight hard and try every night,” Hansen said.

            The boys were set to face Francis Parker High School from Chicago on Tuesday evening, and play two games on Saturday, Dec. 27. The first game would be against either North Boone, Alden-Hebron or Westminster Christian of Elgin, with the final being against either Hubbard, Sycamore or Marengo.

            Other teams competing in the tourney are Harvard, Winnebago and Hampshire.

            Following that is the much-anticipated game against Geneva at the United Center in Chicago with an 8:45 a.m. tip-off on New Year’s Eve.

DeKalb causes giant headache for KHS boys

by Mike Slodki

            On Friday, the phrase “watch out for that tree” might have been an understatement.

            Whatever the catch phrase, the Kaneland boys basketball roster might have felt they had to weave through a jungle to score any points.

            DeKalb handed Kaneland a stifling 59-37 loss at the home of the Barbs, dropping the Knights to 2-3 (0-2 Western Sun Conference). DeKalb earned its first win of the season at 1-5.

            DeKalb’s Jordan “Tree” Threloff was one half of the marquee matchup in the WSC battle with fellow center Dave Dudzinski, but it was the Barb who ended up winning the points battle 26-6.

“(Threloff) is a good player and he’s well coached, we might need to work harder to get Dudzinski the ball,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said.

            Ryley Bailey had nine points to lead the Knights, while Dudzinski, Brody Root and Chaon Denlinger had six points each. Bailey’s points came on three three-pointers.

            The Knights went 5-for-6 from the foul line.

            DeKalb stormed out to a 10-2 advantage in the first quarter forcing Hansen to call time out with 1:38 left in the first quarter. Two baskets by Denlinger closed within 10-6 before DeKalb scored once more with 1.2 seconds to go for a 12-6 lead after one.

            Two Dudzinski foul shots closed within 20-13 in the second quarter with 1:44 left but the offense stalled once again and DeKalb scored two more baskets to go up 24-13 at halftime.

            Kaneland’s luck started to improve on a Bailey three and a Denlinger basket which closed to within 31-26 with 2:17 left in the third. However, Kaneland went as cold as oncoming tempuratures and missed seven straight shots. DeKalb took a 41-26 lead after three and hit a three to complete a 13-0 run ending in the fourth.

            “13 points in the first half is not going to get it done. You have to make open shots which we didn’t do all night,” Hansen said.

            The boys have a short break before traveling to Rochelle on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

            Additionally, word became official that the Kaneland boys will meet up with the Geneva Vikings in play at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, Dec. 31.

            Tip-off is set for 8:45 a.m. Fans are able to buy tickets for $23 and also watch the Bulls take on the Orlando Magic at 1 p.m. Tickets need to be purchased by Wednesday, Dec. 17. The Western Sun Conference clash will be the first of 12 high school games this season taking place before Bulls contests. The game takes the place of the Tuesday, January 6, 2009 game at Geneva.

Knight boys hoops split first four

by Mike Slodki

            No turkey coma apparent for the Kaneland basketball team, judging by an above-average third place showing at the annual Strombom Tournament at Sycamore High School.

            The Thanksgiving tradition saw Kaneland defeat Machesney Park’s Harlem High School on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 84-69, but drop a 60-49 decision to tourney champ Dundee-Crown on Friday, before trouncing host Sycamore on Saturday evening 84-67.

            The Knights began Western Sun Conference action on Tuesday night, but fell to visiting Glenbard South 56-47.

            The Knight boys have a 2-2 (0-1 WSC) mark as they start out the latest campaign.

            Against the rival Spartans, Dave Dudzinski shored up the middle with  a team-high 20 points, while sharp-shooting Ryan Blake had 17 points. Christian Dillon had 16 and Ryley Bailey had 10 of his own.

            The effort was helped by Kaneland’s 12-for-13 performance at the line.

            Kaneland led the Spartans after the end of eight minutes 19-13, and maintain a 41-34 lead at halftime. The Knights had their most successful quarter offensively and led 67-56 after three.

            Previously, the Chargers of Dundee-Crown were primed and ready for the Knights even in a tight affair.

            D-C took an 18-15 lead after one and 35-28 lead at halftime. However, Kaneland used a 17-10 third quarter to tie the game at 44, but the Chargers’ 15-4 run encompassing the fourth quarter.

Dudzinski and Bailey had 12 points each to lead the team.

            The season opener saw Brody Root surprise the Huskies with 26 points, a game-high. Christian Dillon had 16 and Dudzinski added 12.

            “Brody had a very good offseason and it came to light tonight,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “He made some pull-up jumpers and slashed to the basket.”

            Leading the Huskies 12-11, Harlem hit one free throw with 53.2 seconds left but Dudzinski’s successful shot with just under three ticks left gave the Knights a 14-12 lead after one.

            With Harlem clinging close to Kaneland 22-21, Kaneland extended its lead after a Blake three, a basket by Root and two foul shots by Root to go up 31-23.

            Dudzinski later connected on a tip-in to go up 38-31 with just under nine seconds to go before Harlem hit a three at the buzzer.

            The Knights caught on fire in the third quarter, thanks to a Root basket, a Dillon basket and a three by Steve Colombe in the baseline for a 52-36 lead with 2:24 remaining.

            Dudzinski’s two free throws with just over four ticks left gave Kaneland a 58-42 lead before a three-point play at the buzzer by Harlem.

            Kaneland’s 15-for-17 shooting performance from the foul line secured things, and two Bailey foul shots with 2:52 to go gave Kaneland its biggest lead at 75-51.

            Vs. The Raiders, Dudzinski had a game-high 20 points and Blake had 11 points on the strength of three treys.

            Glenbard South’s Jordan Harks has 18 points.

            The Raiders inched out to a 10-9 lead after one but KHS creeped ahead 25-22 at halftime. The score was deadlocked at 38-38 after three before the Raiders blazed an 18-9 trail to end the game in the fourth.

            This Friday, Dec. 5, the Knights travel to DeKalb for Western Sun Conference play.

KHS boys basketball ready to deal with season’s challenges

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Knights return 10 in effort to bounce back from 10-17 season

by Mike Slodki

            Beginning at the Strombom Tournament at Sycamore High School on Tuesday, Nov. 25, the first sight for opponents of Kaneland boys basketball will be the junior in the middle, Dave Dudzinski.

            But opponents will need to be on the lookout for the tenacity and shooting touch that led to victories against schools like Yorkville in overtime, a 29-point comeback at Geneva and a last-second regional win vs. Sandwich.

            With 10 returnees supplanting the loss of personnel like Nick Wagner and Kevin Green, Kaneland could be prime for significant improvement from last year’s 10-17 record (6-8 Western Sun Conference).

            Dudzinski averaged 12 points and seven rebounds a game as a center threat, and spent part of the summer in Orlando, Fla. as part of an AAU Nationals exhibition.

            “His sophomore year was good, and we expect even bigger things this year. We’re hoping we get a big year out of him,” third-year coach Dennis Hansen said on Tuesday.

            Seniors on the squad include Chris Ott at guard and guard Joe Spitzerri making his comeback from X-linked lymphoproliferative disease, an immune disorder. Other seniors include guard Curtis Lubic, guard Ryan Blake, forward Mike Pritchard, guard Brody Root and forward Christian Dillon.

            Juniors are guard Ryley Bailey, guard Donovan Williams, forward Steve Colombe, forward Sean Paulick, new addition junior Pat Fleming and Dudzinski.

            The lone sophomore on the squad is Chaon Denlinger.

            With rosters set a little over a week ago, Kaneland boys basketball is working on its game in the trenches.

            “So far, it’s been a lot of conditioning and defensive stuff. They’re familiar with what we do,” said Hansen, who has John Pavlak as assistant coach. “Biggest thing with this group is being consistent, which was a problem last year.”

            The players can put what they’ve learned and rehashed starting against Harlem High School of Machesney Park at the Thanksgiving tradition, the Strombom Tournament. Hansen looks for the experience to be useful.

            “I think so, it’s loaded with talented teams every year. It’ll have good solid ballclubs, and it’ll serve as a measuring stick,” Hansen said.

            Any early-season test to prove Kaneland’s mettle could send the Knights on their way to Western Sun success.

            “It seems to be wide open; Glenbard South and Batavia seem to have the advantage right now. Rochelle is a solid club. It’s wide open, and we hope to be there at the top,” Hansen said.

            The first slated conference battle is on Tuesday, Dec. 2, vs. Glenbard South, with the final regular season contest vs. Geneva on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009.