MAPLE PARK — St. Edward led as late as four minutes into the second quarter, but Kaneland’s offensive efficiency proved too much to slow for the Wave, as the Knights cruised to a 66-39 victory Wednesday.
Kaneland (19-11) moved on to the Class 3A Kaneland Regional Final, where the Knights will host Sandwich (31-0) on Friday. Sandwich defeated St. Francis 69-50 to get to the final.
“We did a good job, took good shots. From what I saw, we were right around 50 percent from two-point land," Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said.
After heading into the second quarter on a scoring streak, Kaneland hardly slowed down in the second half, executing their motion offense, backdoor cuts effectively in the form of backdoor layups and drop-off assists.
Keely Noel scored on a running floater and assisted to help Kaneland stretch its early second half lead to 34-24.
Late in the third quarter, the Knights put together a flurry of assists as three straight Kylie Holubecki layups came from Knights assists as Kaneland went up 45-29 late in the third and the Knights began to coast.
After Kaneland retook the lead late in the second quarter on a Bryanna Kigyos bucket, courtesy of a Keely Noel assist to the cutting senior forward, Senior Hannah Armin’s steal off an inbounds pass quickly added to the lead, 24-20.
Kaneland added four more points before the halftime break, the final two coming on Maddy Wheatley’s driving left-handed layup, which dropped off the glass and in for the Knights’ 28-20 halftime lead. The made bucket capped a 10-0 Knights lead going into the break.
Armin's timely defensive play carried over into the second half.
“We’re kind of a younger team in terms of experience," Colombe said. "We got six seniors, but a lot of the seniors were role players as juniors, so they’ve stepped up into bigger roles this year.”
Kigyos finished with 14 points on 7 of 8 shooting with a team-high eight rebounds.
“I just think we payed together as a good team," Kigyos said. "I’m proud of all the girls for just moving the ball really well.”
Three different times, Noel found Kigyos either cutting to the hoop or working around her defender, using her frame to create an opening for entry passes, The in-sync nature of Kygios and Noel provided the Knights close looks around the hoop.
“We’ve started together a lot, so we have that relationship because we have a lot of minutes together, but overall our whole team, we’re just really close on the court and off the court," Kigyos said.
By the numbers: Kigyos was all over the stat sheet with 12 of her 14 points in the first half. Kaneland tallied 13 assists. The Knights scored 19 points in both the third and fourth quarters. Chloe Conley scored 13 points for Kaneland and Noel scored nine. Kaneland turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter, but kept better control of the ball the rest of the game. Ten points from St. Edward's Kylie Niehaus and nine from Brooke Biggins proved not enough to keep pace with Kaneland. Kaneland. Maddy Wheatley added two steals and four rebounds while Kelsey Modaff added four rebounds.
Beyond the stats: Hannah Armin’s pestering play on the defensive end disrupted several St. Edward possessions in the second period. The Knights also went to a zone that slowed the Wave in the second quarter.
They said it: “They’re the one seed for a reason. The reality is, we’re at home, all the pressure is on them. We’re the four seed. Play loose, have some fun and like we told them, why not make a memory on Friday night?," Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said.
Up next: The Knights face undefeated Sandwich in the championship game at 7 p.m. Friday.