When junior Ally VanBogaert opened the second half of Friday’s Class 3A Plano championship game with a 3-point basket from the corner, Kaneland had overcome a cold start and a 12-point deficit to tie No. 1 seed Sycamore at 18.
Unfortunately — and unbelievably — for the Knights, that shot with 7:32 left in the third quarter was their last one that went in.
Kaneland went the final 15:28 without a field goal, getting just a pair of free throws from Marina Schaefer in a 40-20 loss.
Kaneland (14-15) missed its final 23 shots from the field.
“We couldn’t hit a shot,” Knights coach Ernie Colombe said. “Our kids busted their butts, you just have tip your hat, they were playing really good defense. We had a bad shooting night and a lot of that was their defense. They just made everything tough.”
The Knights were coming off a 40-37 win over Sycamore just last Friday that denied the Spartans the Northern Illinois Big XII East title.
Spartans coach Brett Goff switched his defense, going from a man last week to a version of a 2-3 zone that allowed the player in the middle freedom to double team anyone who touched the ball anywhere in the lane.
That was mostly senior center Kelly Wallner, who had a 13-point game Wednesday against Plano. Wallner was held to 5 points Friday, which tied freshman Morgan Weber for team-high.
“It was very difficult,” Wallner said. “They were double-teaming me every chance they could get, and it was just very frustrating.”
Sycamore (21-7), which won its first regional since 2003, used last week’s loss to its advantage.
“I think it did help,” Goff said. “The girls used it as motivation and we did too as coaches.
“Just playing them seven days ago, a lot of respect for Kelly Wallner. She was a force inside and watching her all year long, she can take over a game. We were trying to limit her touches, and know where (Caroline) Heimerdinger was the whole time.”
Kaneland scored 2 points in the first quarter, 3 points in the third and 2 points in the fourth.
The Knights had one stretch of good offense during the final four minutes of the first half when they went on an 11-2 run to close the quarter.
Trailing 9-2 after one quarter and 16-4 midway through the second, Wallner split free throws to start the comeback. Heimerdinger sank a 3, Wallner scored on a putback, Weber drained a 3, and Amber Winquist Bailey drove for a bucket with 5 seconds left in the half to bring the Knights within 18-15 at halftime.
Other than those four minutes, Sycamore held Kaneland to 9 points in 28 minutes. After VanBogaert’s 3 to start the third quarter, the Spartans scored the final 19 points to lead 37-18 going to the fourth.
“Once they started pulling away we started going away from what we were trying to do,” Colombe said. “We rushed shots and panic mode set in a little bit, but it wasn’t lack of effort. We’re extremely proud of those kids.”
Morgan Picolotti led Sycamore with 11 points. Wallner pulled down a game-high 9 boards.
“I’m definitely sad about it, I wish it wasn’t my last game, I want to keep going,” Wallner said. “But I’m going to stay close with my teammates and just enjoy the rest of the school year.”
Sycamore advances to play either Burlington Central or St. Edward, who meet at noon Saturday in the championship game of the Aurora Central Catholic regional.
Kaneland says goodbye to six seniors who helped the team finish strong at 5-2 in its last seven games.
“It’s always sad to lose seniors but at the same time I thought they set a great tone for the kids coming up,” Colombe said. “We’re most proud of how they stayed positive. Marina Schaefer, limping around, she could have easily come to us and said, ‘Hey coach, I’m done, 9-13, foot is hurting.’ But she battled back and stayed active and was one of our keys to finishing strong.
“Kelly Wallner didn’t start as a freshman, she leaves here as a girl getting double-teamed as a senior. Caroline Heimerdinger did a great job at point running the show. Amber Winquist Bailey, the job she did on defense, Katie Brinkman, Brittany Kemp, always positive. Brittany gave us some great minutes inside and Katie helped us down the stretch. Extremely proud of the group of seniors.”