Kaneland's strategic plan to slow down and shorten Friday night's Class 3A regional championship game against host Sycamore put the No. 8 seed on the threshold of another upset victory.
The methodical Knights held the lead throughout most of overtime after scoring the final five points of regulation.
However, Sycamore senior Jack Mizgalski hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 28 seconds left in the extra session to lift the No. 5 seed Spartans to an emotional 38-37 win in the third meeting between the Northern Illinois Big 12 rivals.
Sycamore (13-15) advanced to face Belvidere in Tuesday's Genoa-Kingston sectional semifinal while Kaneland, paced by 11 points from Blake Feiza and 10 points from Jake Hed, finished at 10-21.
"I know the crowd doesn't enjoy that kind of game, but we were playing to win a regional championship," said Kaneland coach Joe Conroy. "We know we're not a high scoring team and that's what we felt we had to do to win."
"I can't say enough about the effort from both teams. That was a hard-fought regional game," said Sycamore coach Ryan Picolotti.
Kaneland limited Sycamore to six missed shots and 3 free throws in the opening quarter, but the Spartans crashed the boards and grabbed a 14-10 halftime lead as Feiza, who anchored the Knights' interior defense, sat with two fouls.
"We focus on rebounding every day in practice, but Sycamore is big and you really have to drive them out far to win," said Conroy, as Sycamore held a 25-17 rebounding edge.
Sycamore led 19-13 midway through the third quarter when Hed sparked Kaneland with a 3-pointer from the top.
The Knights followed with a 6-point run behind baskets from Mason Conroy (7 points) and Dan Franck for a brief 22-21 lead, but Ethan Heinrich answered with a 3-pointer for Sycamore at the buzzer.
Sycamore moved back in front 32-27, but the Knights responded again as Feiza scored inside and Kyle Stuart knocked down a transition 3-pointer with 2:24 left.
"We felt great at that point and thought we were going to cut down the nets," Feiza said.
The Spartans' attempt to stall backfired as they were called for an offensive foul. Kaneland held for the final shot, but Franck's off-balance runner was off the mark.
The Knights held the ball for nearly two minutes in overtime and Hed cashed in with a 3-pointer for a 35-32 lead.
Jordan Tolzin came up with a huge put-back for Sycamore to set up Mizgalski's trifecta. Without a timeout and the crowd roaring, the harried Knights missed a desperation 3-pointer as time expired.
"We played with a lot of heart and I give the kids a lot of credit," Conroy said.