Great effort falters in fourth quarter
SYCAMORE—In a game for the ages, the Kaneland girls basketball team led state second-ranked Burlington Central for three-and-a-half quarters of play. However, a furious 10-point fourth quarter comeback propelled the Rockets to a 44-38 win over the Knights in round two of the IHSA Class 3A Regional Tournament.
The season-ending loss gave Kaneland a final overall record of 18-10.
The Knights came out with aggression on both sides of the court from the opening tipoff. Kaneland guard Camri Conley (seven points, eight rebounds, six assists and three-of-five from the free throw line) played with relentless intensity, setting up her teammates with scoring opportunities, as well as creating her own with mid-range shots and hard drives to the basket. All of the Knights’ starters scored in the opening frame, led by Conley, guard Morgan Weber (team-high 11 points, three-of-eight from three-point range, five rebounds and two steals) and center Bailey Crimmins (nine points, five rebounds) as Kaneland went on an 8-0 run in the first 4:30 of the contest. Burlington Central had trouble with inside shooting early on, but found its outside shot late as the Rockets drilled four three-pointers, led by junior Sam Pryor. The teams were tied 14-14 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Kaneland’s trademark defense begin to clamp down on the Rockets as Burlington Central still had difficulty locating its inside shot. The Knights went on a 10-3 quarter-long drive as Weber hit another trey, and shots from Crimmins, forward Vanessa Gould (two points, eight rebounds) forward Ally Van Bogaert (seven points) and a free throw by Conley sparked the run. The Rockets’ three points came in the form of junior Kayla Ross. The Knights went seven-for-10 from two-point range in the first half while Burlington Central was only one-for-10 from two-point range, and Kaneland out-rebounded its opponents 22-12 as it led the Rockets 24-17 at halftime.
The third quarter began with Conley continuing her relentless command of the offense. Despite early full-court pressure by the Rockets, Weber got a bucket off a fast break after Pryor scored five straight points (including a three-pointer) for Burlington Central. Treys by Van Bogaert (one-of-nine from three-point range on the night) and Weber opened up the biggest lead of the night for Kaneland at 12 (34-22) with 2:15 remaining. The Knights outscored Burlington Central 10-7 to take a 34-24 advantage into the final frame of play.
The Knights’ overall game began to unravel in the fourth quarter. Although the continued leadership of Conley helped keep Kaneland in the lead for the first 6:45 of the last frame, the Rockets finally began to find their inside shot and became more aggressive on defense down the stretch. A two-point shot by Conley and two free throws by Crimmins were all the Knights could muster as the team suddenly went cold on offense as their defense began to falter. Forced shots by Kaneland turned into rebounds and scoring opportunities for Burlington Central as the Rockets went on a 10-2 run in the first 5:14. Key shots by Ross, free throws by senior Aly DeTamble and three-pointers by Pryor and junior Shelby Holt, as well as Holt’s three-point play, cut the Knights’ lead to one with two minutes to go in the game. Senior Alison Colby hit two-of-two free throws as the Rockets took the lead with 1:15 remaining. The Knights continued to intentionally foul as Burlington Central pulled away with five three throws in the last 30.1 seconds. Burlington Central outscored the Knights 20-4 in the final quarter to seal the comeback win for the Rockets.
Kaneland head coach Ernie Colombe offered thoughts on his team’s season-ending loss after the game.
“They’re (Burlington Central) a good team, and they stepped up and they made more plays (in the fourth quarter) than we did,” he said. “Our kids played hard the whole game. The effort was there the entire night. (It) just came down to hitting a couple shots at the end. They got us (on) the turnover once or twice there in the last couple (of) minutes, and that hurt. In the end, they just hit some shots.
“We (the coaching staff) told our kids in (the locker room) we’re proud of their effort. It wasn’t for lack of effort (or) lack of intensity. We had that for the entire 32 minutes. Our future is bright. Kudos to them (the Rockets,) but it was a good experience for us. We showed we can play with teams like this.”
Colombe also gave his take on Conley’s aggressive gameplay.
“She’s one of our best players. She’s got the ability to be one of the best players in the area, and I think tonight you saw why she had the ability to control the tempo,” Johnson said. “She goes in there; she rebounds. She’s playing defense. She’s running the offense. She’s a big key for us, and we’re really proud of the way she’s progressed from the start of the year until now.”
Crimmins also weighed in on the contest.
“We played a great effort throughout the entire game. No one wasn’t hustling for every ball,” she said. “We rebounded really well. I think we took really good shots; we played defense. But it just didn’t fall our way. We went in with the mentality to play as a team. No one needs to be a hero. No one needs to go out and try to win the game for us. We kept our composure. We played with the momentum and just really hustled.”
Crimmins then reflected on the season as a whole.
“I think we had some tough losses, but overall it was really successful. Next year, we’ll be even more successful,” she said.