MAPLE PARK – To earn a share of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East title, all the Sycamore girls basketball team needed was a win at Kaneland.
But the Knights were not ready to back down on Friday’s senior night.
The Knights only trailed once in the game and, with the pressure on late in the fourth quarter, Kaneland sank six consecutive free throws to seal a 40-35 win. Senior Caroline Heimerdinger led all scorers with 14 points, including nine in the fourth quarter.
“[We played] really well. I was really happy,” Heimerdinger said. “We definitely just tried to take it to them and keep up the pressure. We all did really well all around with great movement and everything.”
Sycamore (19-7, 8-2 NI Big 12 East) only led midway through the first quarter after a Julia Moll layup made the score 6-4. The Knights regained the lead but the Spartans kept the score within reach and Kaneland led, 17-13, at the break.
Kaneland (13-14, 5-5) pushed the lead out to eight toward the end of the third quarter. A Bailey Gilbert 3-pointer sparked a 6-0 Spartans run to close out the quarter. It was Gilbert’s first field goal of the game.
“I think we played great. We held Bailey Gilbert to where we wanted to,” Kaneland senior Kelly Wallner said. “Our defense was amazing and I really think we came out with energy and played great.”
Wallner was the backbone of the Kaneland frontcourt as she pulled down 14 rebounds. Sycamore only grabbed a handful of offensive rebounds and was outrebounded, 29-15, overall.
“We have been working on rebounding a lot in practice. We did a ton of rebounding drills,” Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said. “Earlier in the season, we were struggling tipping the ball and trying to get rebounds. But our kids have been going up stronger.”
Wallner finished with nine points to go along with her 14 rebounds.
Amber Winquist-Bailey and Marina Schaefer each scored four points apiece. Nine Knights scored in the game.
Kaneland and Sycamore begin play in the 3A Plano Regional next week.
“It was a huge game. It was great to beat them with regionals coming up. Everyone now knows that we can beat them,” Wallner said. “And, as a senior, beating them on our last game on this floor was awesome. Great win for us.”
Kaneland 63, Yorkville 55: At Yorkville, Kaneland (13-7, 4-3 NI Big 12 East) made 30-of-38 free throws to seal a narrow conference win. The Knights led, 44-43, after three quarters.
Ty Carlson scored 18 points to pace a balanced Kaneland attack. Dylan Vaca followed with 10 points, while Cole Carlson, Drew David and John Pruett each chipped in nine.
• Travis Zuellig contributed to this report.