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Knights’ quick turnaround

Girls hoops runs Luther North out of gym in IC Catholic Prep tourney opener

by Mike Slodki

ELMHURST, ILL.—It was a less-than-uplifting opening night against the visiting Lady Blackhawks of West Aurora on Thursday evening. To recover, KHS girls basketball took flight against its first round opponent out at the IC Catholic Prep Thanksgiving Tournament on Saturday.

Using a rotation of uptempo players in the morning tilt in Elmhurst, Ill., the Lady Knights improved to 1-1 and made life difficult at both ends of the floor, with the buzzer sounding after a 63-9 shellacking of Chicago’s Luther North.

It marks the fourth consecutive season for Kaneland at the IC Catholic tourney, with the Lady Knights having taken the last two first-place plaques.

Other teams in Kaneland’s pool are LaGrange Park’s Nazareth Academy and Elmwood Park High School.

The win, featuring 11 points from frontcourt asset and junior Aly Van Bogaert and 10 each from towers Brittany Kemp and Bailey Crimmins, was a nice change of pace from the 60-43 loss to West Aurora.

“West Aurora is a good team,” KHS coach Ernie Colombe said. “They’ve got some players coming back who are four-year players, and they were a tough test first game. I think we did some things well on Thursday. We wanted to make a point of getting out early today. I thought we saw a little bit more of what we could do.”

KHS was also 11-for-26 from the foul line, while Luther North’s offensive struggles were exemplified by its last basket of the contest coming with 6:20 left in the third quarter.

Opening up the whole floor, Kaneland was able to utilize quick passes and use second-chance points to its advantage, while not allowing follow-up chances for the hard-luck Luther North crew.

Kaneland opened up a 17-2 lead after one, and used baskets from Van Bogaert, including a late three-pointer, along with a putback by Kelly Wallner, for a 34-7 edge at halftime.

The third quarter was even more productive for the Lady Knights attack, as consecutive buckets from Van Bogaert, Wallner, Marina Schaefer and Crimmins, sandwiched around Caroline Heimerdinger foul shots, put the Lady Knights up 46-9 with 2:48 left in the third. Crimmins and junior Taylor Eaves had two buckets each in the fourth frame to pad the lead.

Van Bogaert said she feels like she’s gaining steam in her first extended varsity time.

“I think I’ve gotten a lot better than the last season,” she said. “I’m hoping I can do a lot better this season and score 10 points a game. From our first game, losing, that definitely made us go out harder. We realize we need to work a lot harder.”

Against West Aurora, Amber Winquist-Bailey led the Lady Knights with 11 points, while Wallner had nine.

Continuing on with the early stages of the 2013-14 season, Kaneland continued on with the IC Catholic gathering on Tuesday against Elmwood Park, and Wednesday against Nazareth, with results unavailable for press. On Friday, Nov. 29, Kaneland will face either IC Catholic, Westmont, Regina Dominican or Evergreen Park in the crossover.

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Recovery mission

Photo: Junior Taylor Eaves looks to shoot with sophomore Vanessa Gould playing defense during Friday’s practice. Photos by Patti Wilk

Kaneland girls feel they can replace successful leaders
KANELAND—Last February’s season-ending regional loss to Plano hurt in more ways than one for Kaneland girls basketball.

After falling behind in the Burlington Central semifinal, Kaneland almost administered the comeback to end all comebacks before a last-ditch three-point try missed. To come back so far only to fall short smarted, along with the fact it marked the end for six seniors responsible for so much success and a regional title the year prior.

However, with the calendar turning to 2013-14, eighth-year coach Ernie Colombe has confidence the returning players can gel with the varsity newcomers to make things happen along the lines of the last two regular seasons.

“A great group of kids, we miss them on and off the court,” Colombe said. “We feel pretty strong about this group. They had a really good summer, and we had some players step up. I think the big positive to having all those seniors leave, they had an impact on the kids who stayed.”

With eight returning to the varsity ranks, Colombe was still working on a rotation that optimizes success.

“We’re still figuring that out. We’ve got some players that have stepped up. We certainly have some players we think will be in that rotation. We’re trying to figure out a few spots,” Colombe said.

Key returning components for the Lady Knights, who finished 15-11 in 2012-13, include personnel like senior center Kelly Wallner, sophomore forward Vanessa Gould, senior forward Marina Schaefer, along with forwards Brittany Kemp and Ally Van Bogaert, who saw a handful of minutes. Returning members of the backcourt include senior Caroline Heimerdinger, Amber Winquist-Bailey and Katie Brinkman.

“Caroline really stepped up and had a great summer and is playing real well right now. She had a lot of minutes last year and finished off real strong. Amber might be the most improved player we’ve had. She’s shooting threes and beating people off the dribble. She’s really stepped up for us and Vanessa has extended her range a bit, and she does a lot of things real well. Marina has always had a role with us and her role will be a bit bigger this year,” Colombe said.

In personnel like Wallner, Van Bogaert and Bailey Crimmins, Colombe has a pleasant problem of entering the season with bona fide height for the first time in ages.

“It’s nice to come into a season with a roster that has players with a ‘six’ (6 feet tall). We’ve got some size, and a couple of kids at 5-9, 5-10. One of our strengths hopefully will be rebounding, and we’ll able to do things we want to do on offense,” Colombe said.

Total newcomers to the KHS girls hoops varsity ranks include Crimmins in the frontcourt, along with sophomore guard Camri Conley, junior forward Taylor Eaves, junior guard Emily Grams and junior guard Rachel Miller.

A challenge for Kaneland will be how to supplant the sometimes-prolific scoring left behind by fearless shooters like Allyson O’Herron.

“I think honestly, we’re going to be scoring in different ways than we did last year. I think this group runs a little bit better. Collectively, we should be scoring more points in our fast break. Part of that is rebounding better,” Colombe said.

In terms of the Northern Illinois Big XII, Colombe eyes the landscape as a possible uphill challenge.

“Looking at what we’ve lost, we’re the only school in the conference not to return an all-conference player. Everyone has one. We think we’ve got players who have stepped up and can put us in the mix,” Colombe said.

Kaneland’s season begins on Thursday, Nov. 21, with a matchup vs. West Aurora. The Lady Knights then head to the IC Catholic Thanksgiving Tournament that begins on Saturday, Nov. 23, against Luther North. NIB-12 action commences on Friday, Dec. 6, at Sycamore.

Lost weekend

Photo: Kaneland Senior Emma Bradford goes up for a bucket in the first half at Sycamore on Friday. Photo by John DiDonna
KHS girls drop pair at Sycamore, L-P
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—Kaneland girls basketball went through a weekend they’d like to have back, or not go through again.

Friday had another hotly contested matchup with Sycamore, this time along Spartan Trail and going down to the final seconds, when Sycamore handed Kaneland a 49-48 OT loss.

Saturday saw a trip south to LaSalle-Peru High School and a slim 49-47 setback.

The twinbill of losses dropped Kaneland down to 12-9 (4-4 Northern Illinois Big XII Conference).

Against the Spartans, which Kaneland defeated in extra time last month, Aly O’Herron’s four three-pointers paced the team with 12 points, followed by Brooke Harner with 11.

Bailey Gilbert of Sycamore had a game-high 14.

Sycamore had a decided advantage in the charity stripe game, going 23-for-36, compared to 7-for-12 for the Lady Knights.

KHS had an 11-8 lead after one and a 24-18 lead at the break.

A three-point play 37 seconds into the third quarter by Marina Schaefer gave KHS a 27-18 lead. Sycamore powered their way back to close within 32-31 on a foul shot, but an offensive putback by Ashley Prost with 20.8 seconds left extended the edge to 34-31 before the quarter expired.

Sycamore kept at it in the fourth, and took a 39-37 lead with 4:43 remaining before a Harner basket with 3:26 to go tied the score.

A Gilbert trey with 1:04 to go put the Lady Spartans ahead 42-39 before Harner’s three-point play with 39.4 to go knotted it up at 42.

Sycamore had a chance for a lead, but a Julia Moll three-pointer was waved off due to a called timeout on Sycamore’s sideline with two seconds left.

Sycamore saw all seven of its points in OT come from the foul line, with the only lead coming on Kaneland’s side from a Harner lay-in with :31 to go to make it 46-45. Two Gilbert free throws with 1:09 cemented the home edge.

O’Herron’s three try was off, with a Sarah Grams putback able to close the margin to one with 1.9 remaining.

“I thought it was a good game,” KHS coach Ernie Colombe said. “We played real well tonight, and I thought it came down to the line. When the other team goes to the line 37 times, we probably shouldn’t have even been in this game, so I thought we played well. We executed for the most part; we had shots and looks at the end of the game but didn’t hit them.”

In the loss to the Lady Cavs, the Lady Knights had Prost’s 19 and O’Herron’s 12 in the effort.

L-P had a 13-11 lead after one and 23-22 at the half before KHS took a 33-30 lead after three. The hosts outscored Kaneland 19-14 to cinch the matter.

KHS looks forward to hosting the Sterling Golden Warriors on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 4 p.m. in crossover action.

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Kaneland begins Ottawa journey

3-game skid ends with win over Sandwich
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Kaneland Lady Knights basketball endured a three-game skid last week, but still has enough of a pedigree to be a highly looked at team from the area.

KHS began the current season winning its first seven.

Then came last week’s losses to DeKalb and Antioch, and the Lady Knights had to endure another loss to Geneseo High School on Saturday as part of the Ottawa Tournament.

However, the ship was righted with a better result against Sandwich later that day.

The Lady Knights sit at 8-4 (2-2 Northern Illinois Big XII).

“We played solid defensively in all three losses, we played against three tough teams,” KHS coach Ernie Colombe said. “We had a chance in all three games; it came down to missing some shots at key moments in the game.”

Kaneland slogged through a 37-33 loss in pool play down in Ottawa to NIB-12 crossover foe Geneseo.

Geneseo led matters 11-6 after one, but KHS tied the score at 15 going into the break. The Maple Leafs were up 25-20 after three before the Lady Knights outscored Geneseo 13-12 to no avail.

Kaneland was 11-for-36 from the field and committed 14 turnovers on the game.

Ashley Prost had a team-high 12 points, while Aly O’Herron had 11 points supplied in part by three three-pointers. Teammate Brooke Harner had five steals on the defensive end in a losing effort.

More up the KHS alley was the 60-30 win over the Interstate Eight Conference stalwart Sandwich program.

Kaneland was 23-for-41 from the field and led by Prost’s 16 points, with 11 Lady Knights seeing the scoring column.

Kaneland’s Sarah Grams added five assists in the win. Reserve Marina Schaefer had eight points and five boards, as well.

Tuesday saw Kaneland drop its second game in a week to DeKalb in a 38-22 loss at home.

The DeKalb “D” was too much for the Lady Knights, as they saw a 10-7 first-quarter deficit extend to 19-7 at halftime. KHS was unable to come back in the second half.

Prost led Kaneland with 8 points and 4 rebounds.

The Ottawa gathering resumes on Friday, Dec. 21, with Kaneland set to square off against Joliet Catholic, LaSalle-Peru or Morris at 3 p.m.

KHS had previously called Oswego East High School its holiday tournament home since the 2006-07 season before hitting Ottawa this season.

Lady Knight streak ends

Photos by Patti Wilk

Kaneland’s season-opening win streak falls in loss to DeKalb
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—The opening season unbeaten streak for the Lady Knights basketball team came to an end Tuesday against DeKalb, but not before earning a tough overtime win over Sycamore last Thursday.

After navigating through a tough and tight battle and seeing the game almost slip away with under a second remaining, the Lady Knights used an extra quarter to dispense of visiting Sycamore on Thursday, 44-37.

Middle presence Ashley Prost paced the Lady Knights with 11 points, while Lauren Goff of Sycamore had a game-high 12.

Kaneland was 15-for-40 from the field on Thursday, but 13-for-18 from the foul line.

The fourth quarter began with Kaneland up 24-22, and a Sarah Grams pull-up jumper eventually gave KHS a 32-27 lead, but two baskets by the Lady Spartans made it 32-31 with 2:58 remaining.

Two foul shots by Grams with 1:41 to go extended the lead to 34-31, but an SHS basket with 28.3 to go made it 34-33.

Sycamore would get one last possession, and a Prost foul sent the visitors to the line with .1 second left.

“It wasn’t a position we wanted to be in,” KHS coach Ernie Colombe said. “We just got fortunate and caught a break.”

After the front end of the two shots was made, it was on to overtime, where Brooke Harner scored the first two baskets and KHS kept the lead doing with foul shots from Aly O’Herron, Prost and Grams.

“Our main goal is to make the other team take a time out within the first two minutes and keep up the defense, and the offense will follow after,” Harner said.

Kaneland led 10-8 after one quarter, and trailed 14-13 at halftime.

“They had us dribbling too much early on, kind of got us frustrated. They had us throwing the ball for longer passes than we wanted to, and they got to us that way,” Colombe said.

In the third, baskets by Prost and Harner, along with a free throw from Emma Bradford, gave KHS a 20-16 lead.

Marina Schaefer’s two baskets made it 24-19 with 1:14 left, setting the state for the final quarter.

The streak ended at seven games when DeKalb stifled the Lady Knights offense. Kaneland fell 31-17 in a game that saw just three Kaneland players change the scoreboard.

Bradford led the way with 11 points, O’Herron contributed five points, and Marina Schaeffer added one.

Kaneland sits at 7-1 (2-1 Northern Illinois Big XII). The team gets set for a new holiday tourney entry beginning Saturday, Dec. 15, with the Ottawa Tournament.

Winter Sports Preview: Lady Knights look for more

With a large group of returning players, Kaneland looks to exceed last year’s stellar season
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Could this be a lucky seven for coach Ernie Colombe and crew?

Last year, the Kaneland Lady Knights basketball program brought its skills to the floor in a way not seen in quite awhile, ending with a berth in the Sycamore Sectional final and a 20-10 overall record.

Now in his seventh year at the helm and with a glut of returning talent, Colombe and the Lady Knights are looking to put their plans into execution again for an even better year.

Despite the loss of post presence Kelly Evers, Kaneland returns several assets like seniors Ashley Prost, Emma Bradford, Allyson O’Herron and Sarah Grams.

With four projected starters returning, it’s time to hold court.

“It’s a change in terms of having this many kids back,” Colombe said. “It’s also a challenge to make sure we don’t get complacent. We’ve got a great group of kids that work really hard in practice.”

Also returning to help the KHS cause are returning personnel like senior guard Ashley Castellanos, senior forward Brooke Harner and junior forward Marina Schaefer.

“Things look pretty good early on, but that doesn’t always translate on the court. You’ve got to get stuff done on the court and this team’s very capable of doing that,” Colombe said.

New varsity additions take the form of junior guards Caroline Heimerdinger, Sydney Strang, Katherine Brinkman, junior forwards Jessica Jablonski, Amber Winquist-Bailey and Brittany Kemp, and junior center Kelly Wallner.

Two underclassmen fill the roster out: sophomore center Ally VanBogaert and freshman guard Vanessa Gould.

“We have a bunch of kids that can play coming off the bench.We think the younger players are going to help us, and this is a good group of seniors to bring up a young kid with,” Colombe said.

Kaneland looks to be right in the thick of things when it comes to the Northern Illinois Big XII layout.

“I think our conference is really good and improved,” Colombe said. “DeKalb had a great run and we had a nice run; Rochelle’s returning a co-conference player of the year. Sycamore’s improved, and the competition should be good. Morris is improved and we had a nice rivalry with Yorkville, and it’s a shame they got moved up to 4A, but our whole conference is pretty strong.”

Kaneland already got past Wilmette’s Regina Dominican on Saturday by a 47-38 clip at the pre-Thanksgiving Immaculate Conception stop.

After tournament play, the NIB-12 slate begins at Morris on Friday, Nov. 30, with the first home conference matchup against Sycamore on Thursday, Dec. 6. Kaneland also hits the Ottawa Tournament for holiday play after spending that week at Oswego East High School the past six years.

Lady Knights track to make most out of depth

Photo: Lauren Zick looks to make her sophomore season more amazing than her freshman campaign in the 400m run. File Photo

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Numbers are down, and the roster no longer includes assets like Andie Strang, Kris Bowen and Brooke Patterson.

But third-year Lady Knights girls track head coach Doug Ecker is eager and optimistic about what returns.

“We lost good kids, but we picked up some,” Ecker said. “Our numbers are down overall. We have some crossover from a successful cross-country season. So far, so good. We have some kids hurt, but we’ll make the most out of our depth.”

A fifth-place finish at the Kane County Invite and four events with a State seal of approval meant a big finish to 2011.

Still around from the Charleston group are sophomore Sydney Strang, who was in the 4x800m relay, and sophomore Lauren Zick, who finished ninth in the 400m dash.

“Zick is a great athlete and can run anything from a 55 to an 800, with her best race probably the 400, and has improved in the long jump. Sydney did well in the distance events and is getting faster and stronger,” Ecker said.

The indoor track season provided a nice barometer, but slots still need to be figured out.

“It is different, with no discus and no low hurdles, but things still need to get hashed out,” Ecker said.

Going the distance for KHS this season will be personnel like Strang, who has had a nice start in the mile event, as will Amanda Lesak, in events like the 4x800m.

Lesak will also be counted on in the hurdle events, as well.

“She’s someone that we hope will do well in the hurdles and middle distance races,” Ecker said.

Nicole Ketza, Brittany Kemp and freshman Elle Tattoni are getting looks in the field events, with Ketza and Kemp having hours chalked up in the shot put and discus.

“Kemp is someone that did the shot for us as a freshman, and Marina Schaefer is someone we are looking at for big things in the discus once she bounced back from injuries,” Ecker said.

Sydney Luse returns for her junior year, having placed in the hurdles and pole vault.

“We have good kids in these events, but we’d like to shore up our depth because you have to score in a lot of events,” Ecker said.

For sprints, returnee Ashley Castellanos will see time after excelling in the triple jump last year.

“DeKalb and Sycamore have some of the fastest girls in the state, but Ashley is right up there, as well, and will help us,” Ecker said.

A place is being looked at for senior Kelly Evers, who is coming off of injuries the past track season after going to Charleston three years ago in the 4×800 relay.

Other veterans who carry over from last year’s track group and cross-country are juniors like Gabby Aguirre, Maggie Brundige and Abby Dodis.

“Maggie has been injured in the past, but I think she’s gotten past that now and she’s done well for us so far,” Ecker said. “Abby has already run 12-flat for the 2-mile. They would be stars in any other conference, but our conference is so top-heavy with distance runners, it’s unbelievable.”

Kaneland hopes for a strong body of work this season, and a productive homestretch.

“Conference is important. Geneseo, DeKalb are up there and Dixon is getting stronger, not to discount anyone else. We don’t quite have the depth they do, but we’ll be right there with them.

Kaneland girls drill Bulldogs, Indians

Photo: Ernie Colombe gathers the troops during a timeout in the midst of Kaneland’s 41-27 win over Lemont on Tuesday. The Lady Knights are enjoying a 14-6 record through 20 games. Photo by Patti Wilk

Lady Knights secure first winning record since 05-06
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Looks like the KHS girls basketball crew can get used to this modified schedule.

Much like last week’s snowstorm forced the Lady Knights into an extra day of rest only to come back with a win in Morris, Kaneland’s scheduled contest on Friday was shelved and the action continued on Saturday afternoon vs. Streator.

KHS handed the crossover foe Bulldogs a 60-22 shellacking, and followed that win with a 41-27 win against visiting Lemont, and improved its record to 14-6, and 5-1 in the Northern Illinois Big XII.

With five games remaining in the 2011-12 regular season, the Lady Knights have eclipsed last year’s win total and clinched the program’s first winning record since 2005-06, and the first in coach Ernie Colombe’s six-season tenure.

On Saturday, the defense forced the visiting Lady Bulldogs into 40 turnovers and 27 percent shooting, while 23 steals supplanted the effort, as well. Allyson O’Herron and Brooke Harner led the squad with five each.

Despite shooting 21-of-61 from the field and 14-of-24 from the foul line, Kaneland was the recipient of a supremely balanced scoring attack. Alli Liss had a game-high 14 and Ashley Prost had 10 points and five boards.

Kaneland led 19-8 after a quarter of play and clamped down on the visitors once again to have a comfortable 34-11 lead at the half. The margin was upped to 46-17 after the third quarter.

Meanwhile, the sophomores (14-4) had an easy time against Streator with a 42-6 win. Sydney Strang had 15 points.

Freshmen girls beat Yorkville on Monday, 43-35, and handled DeKalb on Thursday, 33-19, to improve to 16-2 on the year.

On Tuesday, Prost contributed a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards.

Despite the Indians storming to a 7-0 lead, Kaneland closed to within 8-5 by the end of the quarter.

Kaneland’s 10 steals came in handy the rest of the contest, with plenty of breakaway opportunities and crisp passing producing success.

Down 13-11 in the second frame, Kaneland’s Marina Schaefer’s baseline jumper and Aly Harner’s three-pointer in the last 66 seconds gave Kaneland a 16-13 edge at the break.

In the third, Prost and Brooke Harner hit baskets to go up 27-15 with 1:48 to go, but Lemont closed to within 27-19 by the end of the half.

Cutting the lead to 29-23, Lemont had Kanreland reeling until a 9-0 run keyed by an Bradford pass to Prost made it 38-23 with 2:30 to go.

“We all just tried to put a lot of pressure on them,” Bradford said about the effort on both sides of the floor. “We wanted to force turnovers, and we were really getting into their guards’ heads.”

Ahead for the varsity group is a trip to Maple Leaf country to face Geneseo on Saturday, Jan. 28.

KHS emerges the victor over Yorkville, Rochelle

Photo: Brooke Harner (22) tries to control the ball in traffic on Friday, with teammates Marina Schaefer (33) and Ali Liss close by. Photo by Ben Draper

Girls’ wins take sting out of OT loss at BC
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—The girls basketball crew from Kaneland found what it liked in at Yorkville on Friday, and had what it liked, but lost it on Saturday.

A 20-point cruise was just the ticket over host Yorkville, 48-28, while a sizable halftime lead up in Burlington eventually slimmed up. An overtime and a late putback sent KHS packing with a 49-47 overtime loss. It was the second loss of that kind in three games, as the Lady Knights dropped a two-point result to Plainfield East on Dec. 30 in the finals of the Oswego East Wolves Winter Classic.

However, the Kaneland group still finds itself in good standing with an 11-6 record and a 4-1 Northern Illinois Big XII tally after a win in Rochelle on Tuesday, 38-30. That marked the first win on Rochelle’s home court in five years.

“Even though we didn’t have games go our way at the end recently, we’ve won a lot of close games earlier,” KHS coach Ernie Colombe said. “We just had to compose ourselves and play well at the end.”

Facing Rochelle, the Lady Knights were lifted by eight members in the scoring column, and led by Kelly Evers’ eight points.

The Lady Knights took advantage of accurate passing that usually found its targets in the forms of Evers, Ashley Prost and Emma Bradford.

“That just happens all the time in practice,” Evers said. “Not just with Emma, Ashley or I, but with the whole team. There’s open looks and magic happens.”

KHS went out to a 10-8 lead, and increased to the lead to 10 points in the second quarter, thanks to a down-low look by Evers and a bucket by Sarah Grams. Kaneland was ahead 22-12 at the break.

After ending the third frame up 30-20, the margin shrunk to 33-29 with three minutes to go.

A key steal by Ashley Castellanos stunted Rochelle’s game plan and Grams and Liss made it to the foul line for insurance free throws until game’s end.

Against Yorkville, Lady Knights basketball was paced by Prost’s 21 points, which included 12 in the first half. Prost also added a co-team-high six boards, matched by Evers.

KHS held the Lady Foxes to 11-for-48 from the field.

KHS went out to a slim 13-12 lead after the first eight minutes, and clamped on the pressure to go up 26-15 at the halftime break.

In the third quarter, Kaneland outscored YHS 14-5 to go up 40-20, setting the stage for the final result.

On Saturday afternoon at the home of the Lady Rockets, things looked to be going well for KHS as it went out to a 13-4 lead after one and maintained a 23-14 lead at the break.

BC closed within 34-29 after the third quarter before deadlocking KHS at 40 going into the extra frame.

With two seconds remaining in overtime, Burlington Central’s Camille De La Cruz put back a missed shot to give the hosts the close win.

KHS was 11-for-48 from the field on Saturday, and 15-for-23 from the charity stripe.

The loss for Kaneland was despite the best efforts of Evers, who scored 10 points and brought down 14 boards. Prost had a team-high 11 points.

Looming on the horizon for the varsity girls: a meeting with visiting Streator on Thursday, Jan. 12.

Depth, knowledge of system charges girls basketball in ‘11-’12

Photo: Lauren Zick (left) and teammate Ashley Castellanos are two new additions to varsity girls hoops that look to make an impact. Photo by Mike Slodki

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Sixth-year coach Ernie Colombe has the table set for success when it comes to KHS girls basketball.

Now it just needs the mix of experience and youth to add something positive to the table.

Despite a first-round exit a year ago, KHS improved to 13-15, up from nine wins in 2009-10.

The lower class levels had an astounding combined record of 49-1.

Plus, the Lady Knights return four players that found key minutes a year ago.

Adding the new additions, the Lady Knights’ depth could be a strength, one that’s integral to any hope to improving a 3-7 mark in Northern Illinois Big XII conference play.

“We’re pretty excited and the kids have been working real hard,” Colombe said. “We have a roster of 14, and right now we have maybe 12 that can start. We have a lot of depth, and it brings new challenges. We’re just trying to find ways to utilitze everyone.”

The girls in the program have been playing the same type of basketball for three years now, making things easier on the coaching staff.

“We have the girls playing the same way now. In past years, what would take us a week of practice to learn now just takes us one day,” Colombe said.

Returning to the fold is senior center Kelly Evers.

“She averaged around 11 points last year. Last year, we had girls that would score a bunch in different games, and she was our go-to player for much of the season, and I think we see that happening again. What we’re seeing is the girls that haven’t played with her before are learning how to use a post player,” Colombe said.

Returning teammates of Evers are returning junior starter Emma Bradford, junior Lexee Guerra and sophomore Marina Schaefer.

“Lexee’s stepped up and become more vocal this year, and she’s part of the guards that are stepping up. Emma’s improved and is a player to watch. Marina has improved, and the biggest thing is that she’s playing with confidence,” Colombe said.

Making the leap to varsity from the vaunted sophomore squad of a year ago are girls like guards Sarah Grams, Aly Harner, Ali Liss, Lauren Zick and Ashley Castellanos.

Looking to score some minutes are junior Allyson O’Herron, already inserted into the starting lineup early on, along with fellow starter Ashley Prost at forward. Seeing time at the forward spot are Brooke Harner and Alex Lyons, while newcomer Liz Barnette plays at the post.

“We got a big group of new players that can contribute. Girls like Grams and Liss and Brooke Harner have played well in practice and Prost has played well at the ‘4’ spot,” Colombe said.

Colombe hesitates to provide a desired record for the upcoming campaign.

“I don’t set a benchmark of winning and losing, because I think that’s a byproduct of several things. What we can control is trying to start an identity. I’d like to see what we are defensively, first and foremost.

The Lady Knights began this past week at Immaculate Conception and have their first non-tourney game on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at East Aurora. The first NIB-12 game is Friday, Dec. 2, vs. Morris.

KHS girls basketball having fun all summer long

Photo: Lexee Guerra, shown here going for a layup in Rosemont, Ill., is one Lady Knight seeing quality minutes during summer league play. Photo by Ben Draper

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Summer has been no time for play if you’re Kaneland High School girls basketball.

Coach Ernie Colombe and crew have been keeping busy with shootouts in Genoa-Kingston, Sterling, Morris, Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and have one scheduled in Ottawa, Ill., this week.

The Lady Knights are also involved in a summer league housed by DeKalb High School, and last Thursday, participated in an exhibition contest against Plano at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., resulting in a win.

“We’ve played tough competition, and we’ve seen improvement. We’ve got the girls lifting and around 30-plus girls are with us right now. You want to see that kind of commitment,” Colombe said.

Colombe can speak from first-hand coaching experience on the benefits of summer league action. The team won eight of nine in a stretch last year, with the 30-game slate going a long way to an improved record in 2010-11.

“Kelly Evers is making her way back from injury; she’s our lone senior. The junior class is full of real competitiors,” Colombe said.

Stats and game scores generally aren’t kept for summer league action, but the summer-wide progress and trip to Rosemont are part of a larger picture.

“We definitely sold it to the girls as a unique opportunity, and they got to be on the floor when the Sky had their shootaround before their game,” Colombe said. “We hope the (sixth-season WNBA franchise Chicago) Sky keep doing something like this.”

The Lady Knights also dealt with a different environment.

“Like the boys when they would go to the United Center, the girls were faced with having their shooting be different. You normally have a wall by the basket, but at the Allstate Arena, you shoot toward seating.”

Colombe has the girls shooting it out all over the area, and thinks KHS has just scratched the surface.

“Evers and Ashley Prost are making their way back from injuries. We haven’t had a regular lineup since we started. Evers will be a force. Lexee Guerra has an improved shot. Emma Bradford could have a breakout year. Marina Schaefer, Ali Liss, Brooke Harner, Prost, Morgan Newhouse and Sarah Grams all play defense and play both ends, which is what we want,” Colombe said.

Lady Knights finishing regular season strong

Photo: Marina Schaefer is seeing valuable minutes, as a freshman, for an improving Kaneland girls basketball squad that beat Yorkville and Marengo in road excursions this week. File Photo

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Monday featured a textbook case of learning from your mistakes.

After dropping a home matchup with Yorkville back on Jan. 7, the Lady Knights hoops unit traveled along Game Farm Road and secured a hard-fought 45-39 victory.

The Lady Knights then followed that up with a double-overtime victory at Marengo on Tuesday night, 63-56.

With the victory (rescheduled from Friday) and the decision over the Lady Indians, the Lady Knights improved to 13-14 (3-6 Northern Illinois Big XII Conference).

Kaneland went 13-for-35 from the field and a clutch 15-for-19 from the free throw line.

Emily Heimerdinger had 12 points and four steals in the winning effort, while post weapon Kelly Evers contributed 12 points and five boards.

Andie Strang had 10 points, including two key three-pointers, and five boards.

“I think the third quarter helped a lot,” Strang said. “I felt like we had really good effort all the way through, and we kept focus the whole time.”

Baskets by Evers, Heimerdinger and Strang produced an 11-6 lead for KHS after one quarter of play.

A second-quarter struggle ensued as points were at a premium. Evers landed the only shot from the field for KHS, and two foul shots by Strang increased the lead to 15-6 with 4:40 remaining in the half, before the Lady Foxes closed to within 15-12 going into the locker room.

Yorkville powered back to take an 18-17 lead with 4:02 to go, but Strang’s perimeter prowess yielded a trey for a 20-18 lead with 3:34 remaining. Strang’s second three-pointer with 1:26 to go gave KHS a 27-22 lead. Yorkville returned with a three-pointer 26 seconds later, before Trinae Coachman’s basket made it 29-25 with 38.1 left. A long two-point shot closed the game to 29-27 before the third-quarter buzzer.

Yorkville eventually fought back to tie matters at 31-31 with 5:20 remaining in regulation. Kaneland would take the lead for good when Emma Bradford made the second of two shots from the line for a 32-31 lead with 5:03 left. Heimerdinger, Tesa Alderman, Evers and Bradford would all connect on baskets from the charity stripe, and coupled with an Alderman trifecta, saw the lead balloon to 10 points with under a minute to go.

“Rebounding and defense really came through tonight (22 for Kaneland),” KHS coach Ernie Colombe said. “We shot the ball well in the fourth quarter from the free throw line. Overall, there’s a lot of bright spots. There’s a few things we’ve got to work on with a couple games to go here.”

Against host Marengo, Kaneland saw 17 points from Nicki Ott and 12 from Evers. Evers also gathered 12 boards.

Kaneland trailed 29-25 at halftime before, and 39-35 after three frames before tying the game at 50 by regulation’s end. After the first OT ended at 52-all, KHS pulled away with an 11-6 second overtime.

In sophomore action throughout the week, Kaneland (23-1) needed double overtime to bump Yorkville, 39-34, and the freshmen vanquished Ottawa on Monday by a 37-31 margin and improved to 22-0.

Kaneland has a lone regular-season contest remaining: a road trip to Rochelle on Thursday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m., before heading to the IHSA Class 3A regional at St. Francis High School in Wheaton. The Lady Knights are set to battle Wheaton Academy on Monday, Feb. 14, at 7:30 p.m. As of press time, the Warriors are 9-15.

Lady Knights take 4th at Oswego East

Photo: Nicki Ott, shown here in action in November, was key in helping the Lady Knights nab their best-ever finish at the Oswego East Holiday Tournament. File Photo

by Mike Slodki
OSWEGO—It wasn’t the ideal end, but Kaneland girls hoops earned its best finish ever at the Oswego East Holiday Classic.

While a third-round contest against the Andrew Thunderbolts wasn’t pretty on Dec. 29, the Lady Knights (8-9, 1-2 NIB-12) were assured at least a fourth-place nod in the Winter Classic Tournament at Oswego East High School. KHS fell to Downers Grove South on Thursday, 36-22.

Andrew played West Chicago on Thursday night for the championship and won the tournament final, 66-53.

In the 50-30 loss to Andrew, Kaneland was outscored 14-1 in the first frame and fell behind 28-11 at halftime before trailing 47-20 after the third quarter.

KHS was 11-for-41 from the field and 7-for-12 from the foul line. Freshman Marina Schaefer led the charge with six points and six boards. Emily Heimerdinger had four steals.

Against DGS, the Lady Knights got a three-pointer and another bucket from Andie Strang, a basket from Kelly Evers (eight points) and a shot from Tesa Alderman to go up 9-0 with 2:26 remaining in the first quarter. DGS scored the last four points of the first quarter, followed by the Lady Knights missing their next 14 shot attempts extending into the third frame. Kaneland’s 14:26 scoreless drought, coupled with DHS completing a 20-0 run, sent KHS reeling.

The scoring famine finally ended with a three-point play from Nicki Ott halfway through the third to make it 20-12.

In the fourth, Ott’s bucket with 3:56 to go cut the difficult lead to 24-20, but KHS could get no closer.

Also noteworthy was Downers Grove South‘s having 26 attempts at the foul line, compared with two for KHS.

“That didn’t really help,” KHS coach Ernie Colombe said. “It was a nice start for us, and it looked like we were ready to play. Then they went to man (defense), they did a good job and were physical.”

The Lady Knights’ all-time mark at the Oswego East tourney is now 8-8.

KHS now hosts Yorkville on Friday, Jan. 7.

Lady KNIGHT LIFE
• The Kaneland High School sophomore girls are 14-1.
• KHS recently captured the Riverside-Brookfield Holiday Tourney,
winning the final on Dec. 30, against Rich Central, 37-23. Paced by
Brooke Harner’s 10 points, and seven each from Ashley Prost and
Alli Liss, Kaneland enjoyed its fourth and final win of the holidays.