There is a contagious buzz in the air at Batavia High School these days.
While the school's football team prepares for Saturday afternoon's Class 7A state championship clash with Lake Zurich, the Bulldogs' basketball team improved to 2-0 with a hard-fought 48-36 victory over Kaneland (0-2) Wednesday night in the Ken Peddy Windmill City Classic.
Sophomore Jayden Johnson and senior Clayton Deutsch connected on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs gradually pulled away from the pesky Knights.
Johnson's 3-point basket, his first after 5 consecutive misses from beyond the arc, extended the Bulldogs' lead to 35-28 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
After Kaneland trimmed the deficit to 35-30 on a baseline runner from Rhett Espe (11 points) with 6:15 remaining, the Bulldogs enjoyed a 9-0 run to open their first double-figure lead of the game at 44-30 with 2:13 left.
The late surge included a pair of free throws from Johnson (17 points), a putback basket by Kyle Lefever (17 points, 6 rebounds) and a clutch 3-pointer from Deutsch (3 points, 6 rebounds, 6 steals).
"Clayton made a big tie-up and the next possession he hit the three," Batavia coach Jim Nazos said of the 6-foot-7 Deutsch. "I thought that was a big possession."
Trailing 24-23 at halftime, Kaneland shot just 5 of 17 (29 percent) in the second half while being outscored 24-13.
"The third quarter hurt us and I thought we got great looks," said Knights coach Joe Conroy. "Shots just didn't fall and that's going to happen. We were working incredibly hard on defense. I think that as the season goes on and we get our game legs under us, those shots will fall and we'll have different outcomes."
Senior guard Blake Carlson added 5 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals for the Bulldogs, who went with a 7-man lineup due to the football team's deep postseason run.
"When we went to places this summer and team camp, we took 20 guys," said Nazos. "When we went to a shootout, we took 15 guys and we developed as a team. You never know what situation you're going to be in.
"Some of these guys right now have been waiting their turn. It's opportunity. I'm so jacked for some of these guys that are getting the opportunities. It might not have happened otherwise. It's a cool atmosphere around here. We had 10 guys at practice and they're jacked. The whole town is excited."
Blake Feiza paced the Knights with 12 points while Wyatt Peeler contributed 5 points and 7 rebounds.
"I thought we had a little bit more energy and I thought we had a little more urgency than we showed last night (loss to Marmion)," said Conroy. "Maybe last night we just needed to get our legs under us and play a game."