MAPLE PARK – The intensity of the last seconds of the Kaneland boys basketball home opener Friday night against Northern Illinois Big 12 East rival Morris more than made up for the staid pace of the first 31-plus minutes.
Down 31-30 with 17.7 seconds to go in the game, the Knights inbounded the ball after a timeout. With the clocking winding down, John Pruett got the ball and launched a three-pointer from the left corner. The trey attempt bounced off the rim but was quickly rebounded by teammate Tyler Carlson who was underneath the basket. Carlson sank the put back as time expired giving his team a 32-31 victory, its first of the season.
“Ty just happened to crash and get the ball and barely got it off,” said Kaneland coach Brian Johnson. “We were very fortunate to come away with the win.”
“I saw the shot go up, and I was in the right place at the right time,” Carlson said. “It was my first buzzer beater. It felt pretty good.”
During most of the game, Kaneland (1-3, 1-0 NI Big 12 East) and Morris played a very deliberate style of basketball. The Knights made only 13 baskets and the Redskins sank 12. Each team only scored in the double digits in one quarter.
“It was just two teams playing fundamentally sound defense,” said Morris coach Joe Blumberg. “They wanted to turn up the defensive intensity it force our guards into some poor decisions.”
Morris (2-2, 0-1) scored the first basket of the game two minutes into the contest on an Austin Patterson three-pointer.
The Redskins led the game 13-7 after the first quarter. The Knights defense, which outrebound Morris 27-10, gave up a miserly five points in the second frame, but their offense only scored seven, putting them behind 18-14 at the half.
Both teams only managed eight points in the third quarter.
“We had a hard time getting anything easy at the basket.” said Johnson. “Joe is a very good coach and they are tough defensively.”
Kaneland, which did not sink any treys, took the lead on the old fashioned three-point play with 6:12 left in the game. Dan Miller (9 points) scored on a layup and drew the foul. He sank the free throw to give his team a 27-26 lead.
Pruett, who led all Kaneland scorers with 13 points, extended the lead to 28-26 by connecting on another free throw.
Morris’ Ben Oritz, who led all scorers with 17 points, tied the game with 4 minutes left in the quarter. It was Morris’ first basket of the period.
Ortiz drained a trey with 1:10 left to go to give the Redskins a 31-28 lead.
Miller sank two free throws to pull within one point with less than a minute to go.
Matt Limbrunner scored eight points for the Knights.
Patterson and Evan Bjelland both tallied six points for Morris.