SYCAMORE – Jack Mizgalski’s 3-pointer with 30 seconds left in overtime against the Kaneland boys basketball team put the finishing touches on what he essentially called the Spartans’ revenge tour through the Class 3A Sycamore regional.
Fifth-seeded Sycamore beat No. 8 Kaneland 37-36 in the final March 3, two days after beating Genoa-Kingston in the semifinal.
Both the Knights and Spartans spent a big chunk of the game running down the clock, including Kaneland taking 90 seconds off the clock early in overtime. Kaneland’s Jake Hed got the first points of overtime, making a 3-pointer with 1:53 left. Jordan Tolzin answered with a putback 30 seconds later for Sycamore.
The Knights (10-21) almost ran off another 30 seconds before Sycamore fouled. Hed made one of his two free throws as Kaneland went ahead 36-34 with 49.3 seconds left.
On the next possession, Sycamore’s Ty Sulaver drove to the basket but kicked it out to Mizgalski, who was open in the corner and drained the shot with 30 seconds left.
“It was just Ty creating and he did a great job with it,” Mizgalski said. “My guy helped off and I was open. It was a great pass by him and I made the shot.”
Both Sycamore coach Ryan Picolotti and Kaneland coach Joe Conroy said it was a heads-up play by Sulaver.
“That was a great job by coach Picolotti to call that and the players to execute,” Conroy said. “Again, Ty, a senior, to finish going down the stretch. ... We were just trying to switch everything and not give up a wide-open look, and I think that was pretty wide open.”
Both teams had trouble getting their offenses going, and it was exasperated by Kaneland running big stretches off the clock early. The Knights led 5-3 after one quarter, but a 9-0 run in the second by the Spartans – including seven points from James Marcinkowski – put Sycamore back in command.
Conroy said he believed the Knights would benefit from a shorter game, especially after Kaneland senior Dan Franck got in foul trouble.
“I know the crowd doesn’t enjoy that type of game, but we don’t play to the crowd, we play to win,” Conroy said. “We had to do whatever we could to get to the third quarter within striking distance to get Dan back in. We knew we weren’t going to win the battle of the boards without him on the floor.”
The Knights retook the lead at 22-21 late in the third on a layup by Franck. But Sycamore answered with a 3-pointer by Ethan Heinrich, who finished with a team-high eight points.
Sycamore kept the lead until Kaneland’s Kyle Stuart hit a 3-pointer with 2:24 left to tie the game at 32. After a timeout by the Spartans, they ran the clock down, but Sycamore’s Keyshawn Stallworth was called for a foul away from the ball with 1:06 left.
Kaneland then held the ball and tried a late 3-point attempt, but Franck missed to close out regulation.
After Mizgalski’s three in overtime, Kaneland held for the last shot, but Mason Conroy missed a long 3-point attempt as time expired.
“The game doesn’t come down to one play,” Joe Conroy said. “It doesn’t come down to Dan missing a shot at the end of regulation, it doesn’t come down to Mason missing a shot at the end of overtime. It came down to the rebounds we didn’t get.”
Sycamore held a 24-20 edge on the boards in the game, and an 11-4 advantage on the offensive glass. The Spartans had 10 second-chance points while the Knights didn’t have any.
Stuart led all scorers with 11 points, while Hed added 10. Franck scored three points and had a team-leading six rebounds.
The season came to an end for the Knights, who after beating IMSA in a regional quarterfinal game knocked off No. 2 Aurora Central Catholic in the semifinals on Feb. 28.
“Truthfully, the kids gave it all they had,” Joe Conroy said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries, and just to watch the resilience of the kids bouncing back, then to lose by one in overtime, we can’t hang our heads on that.
“All the ups, all the downs, all the long stretches of losses, they never gave up and they never quit,” Conroy said. “And they got themselves to a championship. You can’t ask for much more than that.”