MAPLE PARK – Kaneland basketball teams used accurate free throw shooting and quality defense to sweep Burlington Central during Pack the Place Night on Saturday.
The Kaneland girls team connected on 31 of 39 free throw attempts to hand the streaking Rockets only their third loss, 56-53, in overtime.
The Kaneland boys won a defensive battle against Central, 38-30. Both boys teams managed a total of six baskets in the second half of the game. The Rockets only sank two buckets, with both of them coming in the third period.
“It was ugly,” admitted Kaneland boys coach Brian Johnson.
“I like our defensive effort tonight and that’s the best defense I’ve seen [Burlington Central] play,” Johnson said. “They made us do some things offensively that we didn’t want to do. I think we should feel real lucky we came away with a win tonight.”
The girls game could have been called Free Throw Fest as the Rockets (14-3) also took frequent trips to the free throw line, tallying 25 on 33 attempts.
Kaneland only attempted two free throws the day before in a loss to Yorkville.
“We’re not the biggest team so we have got to be aggressive on offense and one of the ways we measure that is how many times we get to the free throw line,” Kaneland girls coach Ernie Colombe said. “So going to it 39 times tonight shows a change from last night."
Charity tosses figured prominently in the tie at the end of regulation. Kaneland’s Emma Bradford (12 points) was fouled while attempting a basket with 27.9 seconds left in regulation. She converted both free throws to give the Knights (10-6) a 44-42 lead.
On the Rockets’ next possession, Alison Colby was fouled with 7.4 seconds to go. She connected on both throws to retie the game.
The Knights were unable to get a shot off before time expired.
Kaneland scored 10 of its 12 overtime points from the free throw line with Sarah Grams sinking six of them. Her first two at the start of the period regained the lead for the Knights, 46-44. Her last four cemented the win.
“Pressure is what you put on yourself, so I just looked at it as any other free throw,” Grams said regarding how she handled the critical free throws.
The senior guard tallied 10 points on the night, all from the charity stripe. Ashley Prost and Bradford has 12 points each for the Knights.
The Rockets' Shelby Holt led all scorers with 20 points. Teammate Camille Delacruz chipped in nine points and Kayla Ross scored eight.
In contrast, the Kaneland boys (8-6) made only one free throw in the first half of its game. Matt Limbrunner (14 points) sank it with 1:33 left in the second quarter.
Both boys teams struggled on the offensive side. Kaneland led, 19-16, at the half.
The Rockets’ Reed Hunnicutt swished the only 3-pointer of the boys’ game at the third period buzzer to give his team a 25-24 lead. Central (6-10) only managed six more points the rest of the night, all on free throws.
Kaneland rallied at the start of the fourth quarter to regain the lead. A Limbrunner long two from the right corner three minutes into the frame gave the Knights a 30-26 lead and was the last field goal of the game.
Drew David added eight points for the Knights.
Malik Harris led the Rockets with nine points and teammate Ryan Ritchie scored seven.