WEST CHICAGO – A couple of boys basketball teams with similar records and a couple of similar players played, well, similarly Tuesday night.
In the end, Kaneland did just enough to differentiate itself from West Chicago to come away with a 71-65 victory.
The similar players are a pair of seniors – West Chicago’s John Konchar and Kaneland’s John Pruett. Both are listed as guard/forwards. They even wear the same jersey number (5).
The 6-3 Pruett had the task of guarding the 6-4 Konchar most of the night.
“He’s a great player, just all-around,” Pruett said. “He can do everything – shoot, rebound, pass. I knew it was going to be tough. I just played my best ‘D’ and hoped he missed some shots along the way.”
Konchar finished with a double-double, scoring 25 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Pruett matches those stats with his own impressive numbers, leading all scorers with 28 points and secured seven rebounds.
“Konchar’s one of the best players I’ve seen,” Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said. “I think he’d be the best player on a lot of programs in our area. … It was a team win. John played excellent. I think he continues to show why’s one of the better players in the area.”
There were seven lead changes in the first half, which finished with West Chicago up, 30-29. Konchar and Pruett both got out of the gate slowly.
Mitch Henke, who wound up with 15 points, scored the first nine of the game for the Wildcats. Konchar finally got rolling by hitting a short bank shot late in the first quarter.
Ty Carlson carried the early scoring load for the Knights (12-7). He registered 10 of his 16 points in the first half. Pruett didn’t score until connecting on a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:23 remaining in the second quarter and had six points at the break.
Another short bank shot by Konchar gave West Chicago a 39-33 lead in the third quarter, but Kaneland closed the period on a 16-4 run, and when Pruett drilled a long 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, the Knights had their largest lead of the night at 52-45.
“He’s constantly in attack mode and we need that from him,” Johnson said of Pruett. “So to speak, he’s our Konchar, and he did an excellent job tonight.”
The Wildcats (13-10) got within one point twice in the final eight minutes, but Pruett made nine straight free throws down the stretch to keep Kaneland in front. West Chicago still had a chance to tie with less than 30 seconds to play, but Drew David (15 points) came up with a huge steal and made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to seal the victory.
“We didn’t play our best,” Pruett said. “We knew West Chicago was a good team and we just came out and did we had to do.”
Rebounding was one of the differences in the contest. Kaneland held a 31-23 edge on the glass. Ty Carlson had eight rebounds and Cole Carlson came up with six, five in the second half.
“We’ve won a couple games in a row,” Johnson said. “I still want to see some improvement on the defensive end of the floor. I liked what we did against their match-up zone tonight. I thought we attacked the bucket pretty well.”
Junior guard Connor Fedderly came off the bench to hit a pair of big 3s in the second half for the Knights, who play Friday at Yorkville.