PLANO – The Kaneland boys basketball team recovered a bit from a miserable offensive first half, but couldn’t complete the comeback, dropping a 60-50 decision to Ottawa in Friday’s semifinal at the Plano Christmas Classic.
The Knights shot just 23 percent in the first half, falling behind 30-18.
“We’re a streaky team and sometimes we shoot really well and sometimes we don’t,” Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said. “I think a lot of it had to do with how they were playing defense. They put on the pressure and forced some tough shots.”
The Knights will wrap up tournament play in the third-place game tonight against Aurora Christian, which fell to top-seeded Belvidere in the other semifinal.
Kaneland (6-5) came out strong in the second half, scoring six straight points to pull within 30-24.
“They did a nice job of attacking us with their pressure and we didn’t have great spacing against some of their traps and were a little passive,” Ottawa coach Mark Cooper said. “Finally, we got more comfortable with it and were able to get the ball to the right guys in the right position. “
John Pruett’s field goal midway through the third quarter pulled the Knights to within 32-30. Pruett was one of the lone bright spots for the Knights offensively, making 6 of 8 field goals for 15 points.
But the Knights were unable to come up with enough defensive stops to pull off the comeback. Ottawa’s Cody Stokes (15 points) hit back-to-back baskets to make it 37-30 and the Knights wouldn’t close the gap to less than five points in the final quarter.
“We had to come back from 12 down which is tough to do,” Johnson said. “Whenever we’d make a play they seemed to make a couple shots. After a while, we just kind of ran out of runs.”
Kaneland shot far better in the second half, shooting at a 48 percent clip. The Knights’ Matt Limbrunner scored 12 points, Ty Carlson had 11 and Dan Miller added eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
The loss ended Kaneland’s five-game winning streak and set up a local matchup on tonight against Aurora Christian, a 68-53 loser to defending tournament champion Belvidere earlier Friday.
“Without a doubt, we hope to look back on this as the turning point of the season,” Johnson said. “It’s been a nice tournament, but we just need to get better.”
Aurora Christian (8-5) also saw its five-game winning streak snapped. The Eagles hung with Belvidere but a slow start put them in a hole.
“We got down early,” Aurora Christian coach Pat McNamara said. “We turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter and we missed some layups, so they took the lead and held it most of the way.”
Belvidere (9-2) led 30-22 at halftime and didn’t put the Eagles away until late in the fourth quarter. Cory Windle (12 points) converted a layup with 3:18 left to pull the Eagles to within four points but the Bucs converted 8 of 9 free throws down the stretch to avoid the upset.
“Those guys are a good team and they can make you look bad,” McNamara said. “Our guys played hard but the better team won tonight. We’re not where we should be, but we’re getting there.”
Ryan McQuade led the Eagles with 17 points and Ryan Suttle added 12.
While local fans might prefer to see Aurora Christian and Kaneland battle on the gridiron, they’ll have to settle for the hardwood.
“It’ll be fun, especially for the kids who know each other from football,” Johnson said.
Burlington Central will face Rockford Christian today in the consolation championship.