PLANO – Trailing by 15 points at the end of the first quarter, many teams would lose faith, but the Kaneland boys basketball team isn’t one of them.
“One thing that coach (Brian) Johnson preaches at practice is to never give up. We respect the guy. Obviously we didn’t give up – we wanted to win,” senior forward John Pruett said. “We just wanted to stack a couple of wins and get on a winning streak.”
The Knights erased that 15-point deficit and took their first lead with 1:32 left in the game. A Pruett free throw with 2 seconds left proved to be the difference as Kaneland escaped with a 65-64 victory over Mendota on Saturday afternoon in consolation play at the Plano Christmas Classic.
“Obviously, we struggled in the first half. Then we came out and coach just told us that we need to play,” said Pruett, who finished with seven second-half points. “We just needed to come out strong and do what we do best.”
Johnson wasted no time changing personnel after his starters were struggling in the first half.
Entering the second half, Kaneland trailed, 45-35. The Knights started the half on an 11-4 run to get back into the contest. Ty Carlson’s six points sparked the run. Kaneland closed the gap to three twice in the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Kaneland finally got over the hump and tied the game at 61 after Drew David hit a long jumper from the corner. The Knights' first lead came after David hit two free throws to make the score 63-62.
Mendota’s Joe Lashonse hit two free throws to reinstate the Trojan lead to 64-63. Pruett hit one of two from the line on Kaneland’s next possession to tie the game. After a foul put Jake Rod on the line with a chance to give Mendota a lead, Rod missed both foul shots, and the Knights had a chance to win the game and Johnson called a timeout.
“We were just kind of looking to get a back door play – a little misdirection. We were lucky that John got fouled and made his first free throw,” Johnson said. “We had a couple plays ready. One was for a zone and one for a man-to-man. We were able to capitalize.”
David found Pruett on a back-door cut and Pruett drew the foul as he was going to the basket with 2 seconds left. Pruett hit one of two from the line to give Kaneland the win.
Also at Plano on Saturday, Burlington Central and Aurora Christian each lost semifinal matchups, as the Rockets fell to Morris, 52-45, and the Eagles lost to Ottawa, 64-45. Johnathan Harrell led the Eagles with 15 points and seven assists.
Central and Aurora Christian will meet at 7 p.m. in Monday's third-place game.
Glenbard West tournament: St. Francis topped Montini, 49-41, behind 22 points from Zach Prociuk and Kilian Brown's 12 rebounds. The Spartans (5-5) improved to 2-2 at the tournament.
Proviso West tournament: Wheaton Academy hammered Gage Park, 73-31, in its final game at the Proviso West tournament. Josh Ruggles scored a game-high 21 points for the Warriors (9-4).
Montini tournament: Geneva put four players in double figures, two of whom had double-doubles, as Geneva whipped Zion-Benton, 64-37, in consolation action.
Senior Morgan Seberger led the Vikings (11-3) with 16 points. Freshman Grace Loberg (12 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks) and junior Janie McCloughan (10 points, 12 rebounds) notched double-doubles while senior Sidney Santos added 12 points.
Also at Montini, Batavia (11-5) fell to Huntley, 63-55, to take eighth in the field. The Bulldogs rallied from a 17-point deficit to forge a tie but couldn't keep up their push. All-tournament team selection Liza Fruendt led Batavia with 23 points and Erin Bayram added 12.
Dixon tournament: Kaneland rebounded from a loss to Aurora Christian earlier in the day with a 66-63, double overtime win against Pekin. The Knights (8-8) won despite three players being sent home after the Aurora Christian game with the flu. Freshman Morgan Weber scored 16 points in the victory and Bailey Crimmins added 13.
In the Aurora Christian-Kaneland matchup – won by the Eagles, 37-32 – Kelly Wallner (11 points) paced Kaneland while Alyssa Andersen (15 points) and Sami Hultine (12) paced Aurora Christian, which improved to 10-5.
Wheaton North tournament: St. Charles East dropped its tournament finale to Willowbrook, 67-54, as the Warriors broke open a close game in the fourth quarter. Amanda Hilton and Kyra Washington had 14 points each for the Saints (7-8), while Katelyn Claussner added 11. Hilton was an all-tournament selection for the Saints.
Oswego Invitational: Geneva won the 11-team invitational, as Dominique Brognia won the all-around (36.875) and Claire Ginsberg was first on the balance beam (9.525).
The Vikings' team score of 144.4 was a season high, almost 10 points better than second-place DeKalb. Batavia (131.325) finished seventh, led by a second-place floor exercise finish from Megan McGee.
• Travis Zuellig contributed to this report.