STERLING – Often times the key to an upset win – especially one on the road in conference play – is to keep the game close and pull out a victory at the end.
For a half, Kaneland kept Sterling within striking distance, but a poor shooting night and turnovers hampered the Knights in a 57-41 loss at Musgrove Fieldhouse.
Blake Feiza picked up two fouls in the game’s first 3 minutes, and the Knights’ first points came with 2:54 left in the first on a three-point play by Rhett Espe. Despite six turnovers to two field goals in the opening eight minutes, the visitors trailed just 9-6.
Kaneland (9-15, 3-6 NIB-12) cut it to a one-possession game on four separate occasions in the second quarter, but never held a lead in the game. Trevor Carlson scored all eight of his points off the bench in the second quarter, and Espe’s layup with a second left in the half got the Knights close, but never ahead.
“We proved that when we get aggressive like two sophomores, Ethan Feiza and Blake Carlson did, they showed what we can do when we sort of play with reckless abandon,” Kaneland coach Joe Conroy said. “It doesn’t matter if you know what you’re running, just attack pressure with pressure. I’m incredibly proud of them.”
The second half was a different story for the Knights, as Sterling (14-9, 5-2) increased its lead to 43-29 after closing the third quarter on an 8-0 run.
“I thought Sterling took us out of our rhythm that we weren’t able to establish all night,” Conroy said. “We fought hard, but Sterling turned up the pressure, and I wasn’t able to get them into a set in the second half.”
Micah Kendrick scored 10 of his game-high 14 points in the third quarter for the Warriors, while Tyler Willman had seven of his 11 points in the third, as well. Alex Duran added 10 points and four rebounds for Sterling.
“Games aren’t won in the first half, they’re won in the second half,” Sterling coach Ryan Vasquez said. “And we had senior leadership. These guys knew we didn’t play a perfect half, but we challenged them.”
The Knights committed 12 turnovers in the first half and 17 for the game, and were out-rebounded 31-16. A 32-percent shooting night (15-for-47) didn’t help Kaneland’s cause, either. Espe had a team-high 10 points, while Kyle Stuart added eight.
Blake Feiza was held to just seven points, largely due to foul trouble. His first points came on a pair of free throws with 4:46 left in the third quarter, and his first field goal was a left-handed layup with 3:40 remaining and the Knights down 54-36.
“We have to find a way to keep him out of foul trouble,” Conroy said of his leading scorer. “He was fresh in the second half, but we were out of rhythm and couldn’t find him. He posted up hard, we just couldn’t get it to him.”