Backdoor cuts are as basic to offense in basketball as a fullback plunge in football.
When DeKalb cut its deficit to 4 points late in the fourth quarter of a key Northern Illinois Big 12 West game with host Kaneland Friday night, the Knights turned to Marcel Neil and Thomas Williams.
The two collaborated on consecutive backdoor layups to double the Knights' lead, and Kaneland went on to secure its 58-46 victory with a 12-4 game-ending run.
"The first one was by design," Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said of Williams' perfect feed to Neil, who pumped in a career-high 28 points to lead the Knights to their third consecutive league victory (6-3 overall).
"The second one was just natural ability," Johnson said of Neil returning the favor to Williams, who also finished in double figures with 10 points during the Knights' victory in Maple Park.
Neil converted his bucket with three minutes remaining to extend the Knights' lead to 48-42, and Williams' score with 2:18 left broke the Barbs' backs.
"Thomas and I are familiar with each other," Neil said. "He made the pass, and I was able to finish it."
DeKalb fell to 2-7 overall, 2-1 in the conference.
After spotting DeKalb the first 4 points of the game, Kaneland took command behind a seamless offensive showcase.
Neil had 4 straight field goals to close out the second quarter to cement a 32-10 Kaneland run that included the squad erupting for 24 first-quarter points on 9 of 14 marksmanship from the field.
The only player to score from the field in the second quarter for Kaneland, the senior off-guard had 17 points at halftime, which ended with the Knights leading 34-19.
"It's a lot of fun playing in this atmosphere," Neil said of the schools' raucous student sections. "I was focused today, getting into the offense. We stuck to the offense. (The new career high) came much easier than (the 23 points against Morris earlier in the season)."
"Big-time programs have players like Marcel," said Johnson. "He is playing really well right now."
DeKalb made its inroads in the third quarter, outscoring the Knights 15-7 to trail by seven entering the final quarter.
But the Barbs were their own worst enemy at the free-throw line, misfiring on 10 of their 15 attempts.
"We were 5 of 15 but really we were 5-for-19 because four of the misses came on the front end of bonuses," DeKalb coach Dave Rohrman said. "It was very uncharacteristic of us."
Tyler Heinle scored 9 points for Kaneland off the bench; his brother Trever missed the final 20 minutes of game action after a horrific headfirst collision while attempting a layup.
Johnson does not expect his starting forward to miss any further action.
James Robinson and Andre Harris paced DeKalb with 11 and 10 points, respectively.