MAPLE PARK – A defensive adjustment at halftime Tuesday nightdelivered the appropriate payoff for the Kaneland girls basketball team.
For the Knights, that also meant a boost to the offense.
Initially struggling to defeat Northern Illinois Big 12 East foe Morris for a third time this season, Kaneland used a calm locker room message and a 1-3-1 zone to sprint to a 65-32 victory.
“We started attacking more and getting confidence in our shot and confidence in each other,” Knights senior forward Brooke Harner said. “That’s what really set us off.”
Kaneland (12-7, 4-3 NI Big 12 East) limited Morris to six points after halftime, all in the third quarter. Redskins guard Ashley Bojovic banked in a shot just after the final buzzer that did not count.
Bojovic led Morris with 10 points, but like teammate Julie Jurasits (nine) did not score after intermission.
Redskins coach Luke Windy couldn’t stress the Knights’ 1-3-1 and overall tenacity enough.
“We knew it was coming,” Windy said. “I was surprised they didn’t use it earlier, because we really struggled the first two times we played with it. It was about execution; we dribbled with our heads down way too much, not seeing the open girls, not flashing hard enough. Their pressure really bothered us.”
Morris (4-14, 0-6) built a 26-25 lead at the break largely against man-to-man looks from Kaneland. Capitalizing on occasional Kaneland overaggressiveness that led to more fouls than the Knights are accustomed, the Redskins alternated between attacking and attrition when they had the ball.
Aiming to add to its halftime lead, Morris was whistled for traveling with two seconds remaining in the second quarter. The would-be final possession of the half started with almost 40 seconds of idle Redskins dribbling.
Beginning with a 3 from senior guard Allyson O’Herron on their first possession, the Knights shot 7 for 17 in the third quarter. Finishing with 18 steals in the game – including five apiece from O’Herron and Emma Bradford – the Knights shifted from charging at the Redskins to reading their ballhandlers’ eyes.
It ultimately added up to a 27-6 scoring edge in the third quarter and a balanced attack that included Harner (13 points), Bradford (nine) and Sarah Grams (eight).
“Today in the first half, we were kind of just complacent with sticking with them and stuff, and I think in the second half we realized we’re a better than than [what] we were playing,” said O’Herron, who had a game-high 21 points.
That last part just about summed up coach Ernie Colombe’s concise halftime message. The Knights kept executing with their defense and getting to the free throw line, where they finished 19 for 27. Harner (13 points) led the way with a 7 for 7 effort.
Kaneland sprinted to a 14-2, first-quarter lead in its first meeting with Morris, a 56-27 road victory to open conference play Nov. 30.
Three weeks later, the Knights encountered the Redskins at the Ottawa Tournament, winning, 38-29.
After beating their longtime regional rivals for a third time Tuesday, Kaneland turned its focus to a rematch with another familiar foe. When the Knights travel to Sycamore on Friday, they’ll be just more than a month removed from beating the Spartans in overtime.
That could be just the second leg of a potential case of trey-ja vu. Sycamore and Kaneland both are assigned to the 3A Burlington Central Regional along with another team the Knights defeated in OT, the regional host Rockets.
O’Herron described the team’s approach to any rematch. As usual, it begins in a familiar place.
“We go over the film of the last time that we played them and we switch up our defenses to complement whatever offense they run now,” O’Herron said. “We really focus on our defense a lot. Mostly, we just change up our defense.”