MAPLE PARK – Thomas Williams’ offseason transfer created a sizable void in the scoring department for the Kaneland boys basketball team.
Senior Matt Limbrunner has emerged as a quality interior option, but he needs help. Junior forward John Pruett appears ready to provide some.
Pruett converted all six of his field goal attempts and scored a game-high 14 points Friday to help lead the Knights past Yorkville, 51-30, for a Northern Illinois Big 12 East Division triumph.
“John is kind of a kid who’s still trying to find himself as far as what he is as a player,” Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said. “I think he’s extremely athletic. He’s a little reserved – he doesn’t want to take too many shots because he’s feeling like he’s hogging the ball.
“Every day we tell him he needs to look to score more, and tonight he was a little more aggressive, and definitely made a difference in the fourth quarter, defensively on the top of our zone and then offensively taking it to the hole and finding the open spot.”
Pruett, a 6-foot-2 forward, notched a few nifty finishes on the night. He knifed into the lane and came down hard after a drive that put Kaneland up, 31-22, in the third quarter, and started the fourth quarter by converting on a back-door cut off a Drew David bounce pass for a 39-28 Knights advantage.
“He’s pretty much an all-around player,” David said. “People have to play him a little bit closer because he can hit shots, and if they play him closer, he’s able to get to the bucket, and he can finish really well. That’s what makes him a good player.”
Pruett also went 2 of 3 from the line and grabbed six rebounds, tying Limbrunner for team high. Pruett was matter-of-fact about his ability to generate points around the rim.
“As we got into our offense, we got easy buckets,” Pruett said. “It’s just what the gameplan was, I guess.”
That’s the ideal approach no matter who the opponent is, but Johnson thought the Knights (7-6, 3-1 NI Big 12 East) were especially adept at breaking down the Foxes’ trapping defense.
“Any time you can get into the paint, it puts pressure on the defense,” Johnson said. “They have to help, and hopefully you make the right decision, and I thought in the second half we did.”
The Foxes (8-6, 2-2), who won all three meetings against the Knights last season, were within 22-20 at halftime, but Pruett started the second half with a 3-point play, and the Knights began to pull away despite a lukewarm showing on the glass.
“We were bigger than them, and we can’t really say that much this year, but it didn’t matter because they definitely outrebounded us,” Johnson said.
Limbrunner and junior Ty Carlson (10 points apiece) joined Pruett in double figures for the Knights, who return to action today against Burlington Central.
The game was Kaneland’s first action since a fourth-place finish at the Plano Christmas Classic.