There's several kinds of pressure in basketball, and Kaneland faced a somewhat unique one Thursday night at the 50th annual Plano Christmas Classic.
The Knights, with their 1,346 students, played Newark and its student body of 188.
Pressure not to lose to a school you are seven times bigger than?
"Yeah, a little bit," Kaneland senior Dan Miller said. "You feel like you should win games but there are a lot of great 1A schools out there and you have bring your 'A' game every game so you can't let down or anything."
Miller did his part making sure the Knights didn't let down, taking his normal turn guarding the opponent's best player and holding Brett Anderson to 4-of-11 shooting in the Knights' 54-35 victory.
Kaneland (6-4) will play Ottawa in the second semifinal at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Ottawa upset No. 2 Seneca 39-35.
Newark (8-5) certainly had Knights coach Brian Johnson's attention with wins over Northern Illinois Big 12 East foes Yorkville and Sycamore.
"They have been in a lot of games and have no quit in them," Johnson said. "I made sure my guys did not take them lightly. It doesn't matter if they are a 1A school, they are two years off a state championship and winning seems pretty yearly for them. I wanted to make sure our boys were ready to go and they were."
Newark led just once when Anderson opened the game with two technical free throws because of what Johnson called "my boneheaded scoreboard issue."
The Knights dominated the rest of the first quarter, holding the Norsemen to 1-of-10 shooting as they raced to a 15-3 lead. Tyler Carlson and Drew David made 3s, and David finished the quarter splitting through Newark's defense for a lay-in.
"It is nice to get off to a good start and make them fight back," Johnson said. "That is not something that is normal for us. We were able to get a few turnovers and convert."
Trailing 25-10 midway through the second quarter, Newark went on a 12-1 run spanning the second and third quarters to pull within 26-22 early in the third. But using just six players, Newark seemed to tire after the comeback, and Kaneland closed the third quarter outscoring Newark 15-4 to lead 41-26, and maintained at least a 13-point cushion throughout the fourth.
"They were real physical with Brett," Newark coach Rick Tollefson said. "They kind of took us out of our game. And we couldn't shoot the ball, couldn't make free throws, couldn't make layups. We kind of played tentative in the first half."
Kaneland held its biggest advantage on the glass, 33-12 led by John Pruett's 8 rebounds and 7 for Matt Limbrunner.
Carlson was the only Knight in double figures with 16 points. Miller added 9 and Limbrunner 8, but it was the defensive end that really pleased Johnson.
"We put Dan on the best player almost every game for the most part," Johnson said. "Sometimes Dan has to guard 6-4, sometimes he has to guard 5-10. He has no slow in him, his motor is always running. It was a collective effort too. A player like Brett Anderson you need to have five guys (working together)."
"He's a great player," Miller said. "He's one of the best guys here. I just thought as a team we played a lot of good help defense and worked our tails off."