It's rare to find a leading scorer like Kaneland junior Ashley Prost.
Look up and down at almost any team's top scorer and they have at least one thing in common -- varsity experience.
It could be a star coming back after a big year, or even a role player the season before now taking on the scoring load after graduation losses. On the rare occasions a freshman phenom or transfer might break on the scene.
But Prost is none of the above. She didn't play varsity basketball last year, instead gaining confidence as the top player on Kaneland's sophomore team.
In her first year playing varsity basketball Prost hasn't just stepped into a starting role, she has stepped all the way up to the go-to player on a Kaneland team that improved to 16-9 with a come-from-behind 54-44 victory over Marengo Tuesday night in Maple Park.
Prost entered the game averaging a team-best 10 points a game and did nothing to hurt that with a game-high 17 points while also leading her team with 8 rebounds.
"I didn't expect it," said Prost of her immediate success. "I've been working really hard. We're all at the school working (in the off-season). I think there's a lot of good players on our team."
That balance was on display against Marengo (20-7). While Prost got off to a hot start with 11 first-half points, it took a team effort to bring the Knights back from a 27-24 halftime deficit.
Marengo took its biggest lead at 27-18 late in the second quarter. Kaneland closed the first half with 6 unanswered points, three each from Prost and sophomore Lauren Zick.
The Knights kept that momentum going in the third quarter, holding Marengo to 6 points. They outscored Marengo 21-6 to start the second half which combined with the strong close to the first half made it a 27-6 spree to go from down 9 points to up 45-33.
"We were more focused after we got down and finally got our momentum going," Prost said. "I think everyone stepped up and played their part very well."
Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe credited Brooke Harner's defense, 9 points off the bench by Zick and Prost's continued steady scoring as among the reasons for the comeback. Kaneland also turned the ball over just 13 times.
Colombe went back to a man-to-man that helped stymie Marengo who hit 10 of 21 shots in the first half and just 7 of 23 in the second.
"Defense in the second half was the difference," Colombe said. "We turned it up a notch."
Ahead 41-33 after three quarters, the Knights didn't let their lead dip below 7 points in the fourth quarter. When Marengo got that close, Zick made 3 free throws in the final 1:13 to seal the win.
"We didn't let them creep back in which was nice," Colombe said. "Sometimes it's difficult to play with the lead."
Molly Richardson led Marengo with 12 points. Ally Filmore and Allison Rogutich both scored 8 points while Jessica Villie had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds -- but not enough to counter Kaneland's 38-26 rebounding edge as the Knights hustled down many second-chance opportunities especially in the second half.
"We didn't maintain the same level of mental focus coming out of halftime," Marengo coach Nick Rode said. "Kaneland is a good team. They worked pretty hard and there were stretches there I felt they outworked us and we can't do that coming down the home stretch."
Kaneland junior Allyson O'Herron hit a pair of 3-pointers as part of her 12-point, 7-rebound game. Kelly Evers scored 6 of her 7 points in the second half.
Kaneland closes the regular season with Senior Night Friday against Rochelle before opening play as the No. 1 seed next Wednesday in the Class 3A Yorkville regional.
"It was a quality win for us on our home court," Colombe said. "We needed that. We had some people step up offensively."