Whatever frustration Kaneland took to the locker room trailing Hinckley-Big Rock by a point Tuesday night in Hinckley, the Knights let their play do the talking in the third quarter.
Kaneland scored the first 20 points of the second half on its way to outscoring the Royals 31-2 in the third quarter. Two minutes into the fourth quarter Knights coach Brian Johnson had his third string on the court to finish up a 63-38 victory.
What looked like a potential Cinderella story when Royals junior guard Eric Phillips drained the second of his back-to-back jumpers at the second-quarter buzzer to send Hinckley to halftime with a 23-22 lead quickly turned into a Kaneland rout.
The Knights (4-2) came out in the third quarter with a full-court press that the Royals (3-6) had no answer for.
"We made some adjustments and just came out and played like coach wanted us to play," Kaneland senior John Pruett said. "I bet you can see our team likes to get out and run. We feel that's the way we get everything going."
Kaneland and Hinckley-Big Rock is one of the interesting nonconference matchups on the schedule, two schools close in proximity but with a huge difference in enrollments. Now in its fifth year of the series, the Knights and their 1,358 student body dwarf the Royals' 209.
Kaneland has won all five meetings, though last year's game came down to the final seconds against one of the Royals' most experienced and talented teams.
"We're close, a lot of people know each other from the farming communities and we went ahead and played," Bill Sambrookes said. "A lot of natural rivalries. Brian has agreed to keep it on."
Sambrookes has an inexperienced squad this year, and the Knights jumped to a 12-3 lead after a quarter behind Pruett's 6 points.
But Hinckley-Big Rock responded with a 20-point second quarter, which turned out to be more points than it scored in the other three quarters combined. Phillips opened the quarter with a 3-point basket and ended it with a long jumper.
"Hinckley played a great first half," Johnson said. "They made us uncomfortable offensively. We weren't good versus the 2-3 zone.
"No. 3 (Phillips) is a nice little player. I remember coaching him at Hoop Mountain (camp) 3 or 4 years ago and he was a shooter then and he's become a nice player. He's hard to guard and did some things to keep them in the game."
Johnson said he "didn't yell or anything," at halftime, instead taking his assistants' advice to pick up the defensive pressure full court.
"They made some great suggestions," Johnson said. "I thought it sounded good and we went with it."
Drew David opened the second half with a quick 3, and sophomore Dylan Vaca followed with a baseline jumper for the first of his 10 third-quarter points.
The Royals turned the ball over 7 times in the quarter and made just 1 of 12 shots. Cole Carlson capped the quarter with three straight assists, first to Ben Barnes and then twice to Tyler Carlson for a 53-25 lead going to the fourth.
"We got blitzed," Sambrookes said. "We talked about it at halftime, we drew up our press-breakers but when you are on the court against guys who are as long and as aggressive and as quick as Kaneland is, you don't see the openings like somebody who might be sitting up in the stands might see them. You can't see the seams with all those arms around you. They came out to make a point in the third quarter because I'm sure they weren't happy about the first half."
Pruett led Kaneland with 16 points, Tyler Carlson scored 15 and Vaca 14. Phillips paced the Royals with 17.