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Any team loves an 8-0 run, but with the way Kaneland played defense Wednesday night at the Class 3A Plano regional, those 8 points felt like about 80 for the Reapers to overcome.
Kaneland’s spurt midway through the second quarter turned a 2-point game into a 10-point lead. Plano never could get on track, shooting 17 percent from the field in a 43-27 loss.
“The first half we struggled a little but we knew what we needed to do and we finished it,” Kaneland center Kelly Wallner said. “That’s what Kaneland is based off is defense. We knew we had to come out with strong defense to win this game.”
Nobody had a tougher assignment than Wallner, giving up four inches against Plano’s 6-foot-3 Clarisa Martinez.
Wallner more than held her own, finishing with 13 points and 8 rebounds while Martinez totaled 8 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out with three minutes remaining and Kaneland leading 33-25.
“Kelly has been playing good all year and down the stretch she has stepped up,” Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said. “Great job tonight.”
No. 3 seed Kaneland (14-14) will play No. 1 Sycamore for the regional title at 7 p.m. Friday. The teams split their Northern Illinois Big XII East meetings.
Wednesday’s game started on the wrong foot for the Knights when Libby Love made both technical foul free throws assessed to Kaneland before the game began.
“They said we split for warm-ups,” Colombe explained. “You have to go out one way, you can’t split. It’s a version of the new rules of taunting. It’s something we had to deal with, certainly not the way we wanted to start but the kids overcame it.”
After Plano took a couple early leads, Caroline Heimerdinger made the first of her three 3-pointers to put the Knights up 7-6.
Kaneland caught a break when Martinez picked up her second foul with 3:45 left in the first quarter. Wallner quickly scored, and Bailey Crimmins added two more inside baskets for a 15-11 lead after one quarter.
Martinez returned in the second quarter, and points became painfully hard to come by for both teams the rest of the night. Plano scored 5, 5 and 6 points in the final three quarters while turning the ball over 21 times.
“I thought we pressured their guards a lot. It started with our guards, they sped them up,” Colombe said.
Heimerdinger’s back-to-back 3s in a 30-second stretch represented nearly all Kaneland’s second-quarter offense as the Knights outscored Plano 9-5 to lead 24-16 at halftime.
The offensive futility continued in the third. Kaneland made just 2 field goals, yet extended its lead to 31-21 as Plano went 1 for 18 from the field and scored 5 points.
“The big girl is a load down there, altering shots and making it hard,” Colombe said. “Defense kept us in it. We had a couple cold spells on offense.”
Plano closed within 31-25 midway through the final quarter. Wallner drew the fourth foul on Martinez and made 2 free throws for an 8-point lead, then a minute later Martinez picked up her fifth foul reaching in after Marina Schaefer rebounded one of Martinez’s missed shots.
Wallner was the only player on either team in double figures. Heimerdinger’s 9 points came on three 3s, and Schaefer (7) and Crimmins (6) combined for 13 bench points.
Plano (14-15) beat Kaneland 52-51 in last year’s regional, and the Reapers also handed the Knights a 3-point loss during the regular season this year.
But Kaneland got its revenge Wednesday, holding Plano to just 8-for-47 shooting.
“(Last time) we shot 13 for 61 and 11 for 24 at the line,” Colombe said. “We thought if we shot it better we would have a pretty decent shot and that’s what happened.”