MAPLE PARK — Drew David thought the shot was dead on when it left his hand.
Down two points to Sycamore, Kaneland’s junior guard didn’t have much time – fewer than five seconds left in the fourth quarter – but caught a pass from Matt Limbrunner near the top of the key, got Spartans forward Devin Mottet to buy a pump fake, and let it rip.
David’s shot fell right through the net, and the Knights, down nine points early in the second half, escaped with a 43-42 win Tuesday at the buzzer.
“Drew just made a nice shot fake,” Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said. “We were lucky to get that last possession and make that last shot, because Sycamore played hard.”
The plan wasn’t for the ball to be in David’s hands for the final play. Kaneland (11-6, 5-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) wanted to find Limbrunner in the post, where he had made a great impact during the second half.
However, Limbrunner was surrounded by Spartans down low, and luckily for Kaneland, he was able to get the ball to David even though the Sycamore (10-8, 2-3 NI Big 12 East) defenders nearly tipped it away.
“We were just going to try and get an easy layup because they were switching the whole game,” David said. “Their guys didn’t bite. The ball got tipped around and Matt finally got it. I just put the shot up. There wasn’t much time left so I didn’t really have a choice.”
With the NI Big 12 East conference season more than halfway finished, the Knights still control their own destiny toward earning an outright title. Sycamore was the one team which had defeated Kaneland in league play, a reason David called the victory the biggest game of the season to this point.
“They were the team we hadn’t beat yet. They kind of had a one-up on us, even though we were first in the conference,” David said. “We had to come out, we had to try stiffen our lead.”
David finished the game with five points. Limbrunner led the Knights with 12 despite sitting out much of the first half with foul trouble. John Pruett added 10 points for Kaneland.
Sycamore’s leading scorers were Ben Niemann and Scott Nelson as both players finished with 12 points. Spartans coach Andrew Stacy said it was Nelson’s best game of the season, by far.
“That’s what we knew he was capable of doing,” Stacy said. “When he plays with that aggressive side, and looks to attack the boards and looks to score when he gets the ball to the post, he’s a big kid, so not many guys can match up with him. He did a great job carrying us that first half.”