ELGIN – A few fans seated in the front row of St. Edward’s home bleachers shifted back one row Friday at the request of a pregame public address announcement.
The maneuver protected an already cozy sideline from getting slick, but every other spot on the floor was fair game for the Kaneland boys basketball team.
Senior John Pruett weaved through Green Wave defenders most often, scoring a career-high 29 points in a 65-55 victory. Fittingly, Pruett shrugged his shoulders and credited some basic tutelage from coach Brian Johnson, who won in his return to his alma mater.
“Whatever I thought was open, I went to it. Just tried to score,” Pruett said. “Just go up strong and try to finish.”
Classmate Tyler Carlson joined Pruett in double figures with 19 points, providing some welcome stability for the 10-6 Knights, who were playing for the first time since Jan. 17.
Pruett scored a then career-high 27 points in an overtime loss to the Foxes in that game.
While inclement weather and an open schedule kept Kaneland from running the floor in the interim – even practices have been limited lately – it was easy for Johnson’s charges to channel his enthusiasm in the gym where he cultivated it.
Pruett and Carlson scored 25 of the Knights’ 30 first-half points.
Whether the Green Wave (16-5) defended the Knights man-to-man or with a zone, the pair attacked the basket with efficiency and ease. The pair combined to shoot 20 for 30 from the field.
“Coach has told us he needs me and Ty to score,” Pruett said. “That’s our role on the team, to be leaders and scorers. He needs us to step up.”
Ryan David matched Pruett with a team-high nine rebounds. The Knights outhustled the Green Wave under the boards throughout the night, seizing their chances as St. Edward went 1 for 17 from 3-point range despite many clean looks.
Sure, not everything was pleasant – Johnson pointed to his team’s 15 for 29 free throw shooting – but Johnson seemed primed to savor the night either way after St. Edward coach P.J. White extended the invitation.
“It’s an honor to be back. I love this gym. A lot of memories in here,” Johnson said. “It was neat. It was obviously different not being out there on the floor, but I feel really lucky that coach White agreed to play and have us out here, and also lucky to get the win.”
The homecoming survived two postponements earlier this week. Severely cold temperatures canceled classes Tuesday – the night the game was originally scheduled – before the threat of another storm Thursday prompted Kaneland officials to nix all afterschool activities.
With that in mind, there was hardly any gallows humor from Johnson about his alma mater not wanting to see his shadow again nearly 17 years after his 1997 graduation.
“It was more the other way around,” White chuckled. “ ‘You guys don’t want to play us, or what?’ ”
White, a former longtime Batavia assistant in his fourth season leading the Green Wave, understood the Knights’ plight, as he doubles as St. Edward’s athletic director.
Erring on the side of caution when weather is involved always is the best policy, and regrets do no good. Citing Kaneland’s rural setting and the threat of drifting snow, the city-dwelling Green Wave waited for the Knights for another 24 hours.
“They have to worry about not only getting here, but when they get back home, kids getting home,” White said.
Ideally, St. Edward would have possibly had to ponder the same scenario on a trek to Maple Park next season. White and Johnson initially discussed a two-year contract for the game, but looming shakeup to the Northern Illinois Big 12 tightened Kaneland’s nonconference openings for the 2014-15 season.
Nick Duffy led St. Edward with 18 points. Davontae Elam was next with 17.