MAPLE PARK – The teams’ records suggested a double-digit margin of victory was entirely possible Tuesday night.
That’s exactly what happened, but in contrary fashion to what most would have envisioned.
The surging Kaneland boys basketball team had its seven-game winning streak snapped by lightly regarded West Chicago, 54-43, in a game that wasn’t that close for most of the second half.
Kaneland (13-7) trailed by five points at halftime before West Chicago (5-16) took control in the third quarter.
Knights coach Brian Johnson urged his players to go up stronger around the rim on multiple occasions as Kaneland struggled to convert near the basket.
“That’s something we’ve kind of had to deal with all year, just finishing strong,” Johnson said. “We’re getting in there, we’re just not always going up as hard as we can. That’s something we have to grow from and learn from.
“West Chicago’s obviously used to a very physical conference against some very, very elite teams, the Glenbard Wests and the West Auroras of the world, so we have to realize they’re not going to come in here and look at our record and be intimidated, because they see [good teams] every single night.”
Senior forward Matt Limbrunner – the Knights’ top scorer on the season – took “a shot to the ribs” early in the game, Johnson said, and was held scoreless in the first half before finishing with eight points.
“It was a zone, and they had two guys on him most of the night, so it was tough for him,” Kaneland junior Ty Carlson said. “But Matt’s a great player. He’ll come back Friday [against DeKalb] and have a great game.”
Meanwhile, the Wildcats’ go-to guy, John Konchar, scored in just about every fashion possible. The versatile, 6-foot-4 forward had 24 points and eight rebounds.
The Knights are often undersized but usually have more success compensating with scrappy defense. That wasn’t the case Tuesday, against Konchar in particular.
“He’d be the tallest player on our team so we’re throwing a kid like Dan Miller at him, who works hard, and then to give Dan a break, we put Drew (David) on him, and Drew’s 5-11, and he’s 6-4,” Johnson said. “I thought Drew did a nice job, he was physical with him, but once he gets in the paint, he’s pretty hard to [stop].”
A spinning, three-point play by Konchar gave the Wildcats a 33-19 lead with 4:22 to play in the third quarter. West Chicago increased its lead to 42-26 going into the fourth before the Knights’ offense warmed up, too late to make a difference.
West Chicago coach Bill Recchia wasn’t overly surprised by his team’s emphatic win, no matter how the records look.
“Our record is not indicative of the type of basketball team that we are,” Recchia said. “ … Of those 16 losses, four of them are in overtime or double overtime. Five of those losses we got beat, handily, we should have gotten beat, the other ones, we were in every single ballgame.”
John Pruett and Carlson scored nine points apiece to pace Kaneland, while Miller and Limbrunner each had eight. Sophomore guard Connor Fedderly hit a pair of 3-pointers off the bench for the Knights in the fourth quarter.
The Knights will try to brush off the nonconference setback and refocus on the Northern Illinois Big 12 East race. Kaneland can clinch at least a share of the title with a win against the Barbs on Friday.
“We have a great opportunity on Friday for senior night to honor Dan and Matt, and hopefully go out with a bang,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot on the line Friday night for us and the goal is to come out with a little more energy than we had tonight, and execute a little bit better.”