BATAVIA – It was not the kind of start new Kaneland coach Russ Zick was hoping for during Monday night’s season opener in the 43rd Annual Ken PeddyWindmill City Classic.
The Knights turned the ball over six times and forced Zick to call two timeouts before they had even scored a basket as host Batavia rolled to a 63-34 victory.
The Bulldogs scored 14 straight points to open the game and led by double digits the rest of the evening.
“A lot of these guys got an opportunity here with the extended run with football and they took full advantage of it and did good things,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. “Some young guys came up and played well. I thought it was a great team win.”
Junior forward Bryce Ebert finally put the Knights on the board with an inside basket with 3:51 remaining. He had a big game for the Knights with 14 points and senior forward Wyatt Peeler added five points, but no one else had more than one basket for Kaneland.
“We have a lot of players generally equal in their ability and obviously we can’t play 13 or 15 kids a night,” Zick said. “We did take a little bit of a hit in trying to see everybody out there, but all the credit should go to Batavia because they got in our passing lanes and we weren’t physical enough to get an offense started.”
Committing 21 turnovers didn’t help matters for the Knights. They were also out rebounded 40-27.
“We were trying to find our way today and it was one of those days where Batavia blocked our path,” Zick said. “They didn’t allow us to do anything we want to do the whole game and they’re big boys.”
Freshman Kyle Neibch certainly showed what he could do for the Bulldogs in his debut as he came out sizzling, knocking down four three-pointers off the bench and finishing with 12 points.
“Shooting is something that I’ve always been good at and I take that as a high priority of my game,” he said. “We didn’t shoot well when we first came out, but we got some scrappy buckets that we needed and then I came in and I felt good and kept knocking them down.”
Batavia never allowed the Knights to go on any scoring runs. The Bulldogs themselves went on an 11-0 spurt of their own to really blow the game open at 53-24 late in the third quarter.
Junior guard Jayden Johnson really came alive during that run, scoring six of his 19 points. He added a game-high seven rebounds to pace the Bulldogs.
“We have a lot of young guys on the roster with football making a deep run and they did an amazing job tonight,” he said. “We had good execution at the start for what we have right now and our main focus is defense. We got stops and were able to go out and run and that’s out thing. I was very pleased with what we did as far as offense and defense.”
Senior Marko Yager added 11 points and five rebounds and junior Charlie Grimm chipped in with seven points for Batavia.