The numbers favored Kaneland's boys basketball team on Friday in Maple Park.
Despite occasional difficulty against Yorkville's press and half-court trap the Knights made 51 percent of their shots to Yorkville's 24 percent, reflecting just 10 Foxes field goals. Kaneland also forced 19 turnovers, 13 of them in the second half when the Knights gained separation. Most importantly, unlike last season when the Knights went 0-3 against Yorkville, Kaneland won the first of their two Northern Illinois Big 12 East meetings, 51-30.
John Pruett led the Knights with 14 points with perfect 6-of-6 shooting from the floor, while Matt Limbrunner and Tyler Carlson each scored 10 points. Josh Gengler led the Foxes with 8 points, Dakota Gette scored 7 and Brett Assell had 4 steals.
"We knew they were going to run their 2-2-1 press, their '22,'" said Pruett, a 6-foot-2 junior forward whose career best was 20 points Nov. 24 in a loss to St. Francis. "We knew we had to beat that. And as we beat it, if they gambled we'd have an open look somewhere, so we just kept moving the ball around till we found something."
Kaneland (7-6, 3-1) never trailed after Carlson's lay-in tied the score 2-2 less than two minutes into the game, but Yorkville (8-6, 2-2) held the Knights to 7-of-17 shooting to make it a stay within 22-20 of Kaneland by halftime.
"Early on they did a really nice job of causing us to make some mistakes and not necessarily take care of the basketball," said Kaneland coach Brian Johnson. "I think we had a lot of turnovers early and they put a ton of pressure on us on the offensive glass. They had a lot of offensive rebounds (11 for the game) and that really kept them in the ballgame."
The second half was a different story. Starting strong on Pruett's three-point play after a Tyler Carlson steal, the Knights opened up a 9-point lead entering the fourth quarter, 37-28, on the strength of 7-of-12 shooting.
The Knights lived in the lane, whether it was a Pruett baseline drive, a Limbrunner half-hook, Cole Carlson's inside shot off a David assist or David's pullup jumper with 2 seconds left in the quarter. "Once we got the ball in the middle we thought we had a size advantage on them, so we were trying to get the ball inside to Matt and other guys. We did a good enough job to get the win today," David said.
The fourth quarter was a turnover-laden Yorkville nightmare, held without a basket until Gengler's lefty baby hook with 4:11 to play.
Kaneland, which led 44-30 at that point, forced the Foxes into 13 second-half turnovers and 4-of-20 shooting, 1-of-7 in the fourth quarter.
Johnson sent Ben Barnes, Bailey Harvell and Dylan Vaca off the bench with about 1:40 left in the game. Illustrating the Knights' fortunes on Friday, Vaca promptly hit the Knights' sole 3-pointer of the game for the final hoop and largest margin.
"Anytime you can get in the paint it puts pressure on the defense," Johnson said. "They have to help and hopefully you make the right decision and I thought in the second half we did."