Sandwich ends Kaneland's season
Jaylynn Vana knows that the next game could be her last, but the Sandwich senior still is able to remain cool and confident.
Behind Vana's game-high 21 points, the Indians rolled over Kaneland 45-27 in Wednesday's Class 3A IMSA regional semifinal.
Sandwich (21-11) advances to Friday's regional championship to face Montini.
"There was a bit of nerves at the beginning, but I was just trying to not think about it," Vana said. "Even on Senior Night, we had a big game that determined where we placed in conference, but we just focused on the game and not anything else. It was the same thing tonight. We just focused on playing the game, winning the game, one game at a time."
Senior Ava Knepper and junior Claire Roberts were able drive in and get the ball to Vana and junior Josie Ness, who had 11 points and 8 rebounds, for easy baskets throughout the game.
"Jaylynn Vana has been playing really well down the stretch and that's what you expect from a senior," Kaneland coach Kelsey Flanagan said. "She got some good looks and with us coming over to help on their drives from (Knepper or Roberts or Sophia Datoli), she was right there on the block, weak side, for little dump passes and layups. It's tough to contain when we can't contain the drive."
Kaneland (19-13) trailed 27-15 at halftime and never pieced together a run in the second half to get back into the game. The Knights committed 17 turnovers while the Indians only had seven.
"We definitely had a cold shooting night," Flanagan said. "We didn't hit shots and coming in we thought they'd keep their press on longer than they did in the first two games. So we worked on it and we talked about it all week, and they did and it got to us early. But I think the biggest difference right from the start was they got every loose ball."
Sandwich had 11 second-chance points.
"One of the things we talked about in pregame was that we had to come out strong and how we needed to focus on not making as many turnovers," Vana said. "We knew that whatever team had fewer mistakes would be the winner of tonight's game."
Kaneland only had four baskets at halftime and didn't have a scorer reach double figures.
"Defense wins games and offense just makes it fun," Sandwich coach Chris Johnson said. "That is one of our mantras from even three or four years ago."
Ness said their two biggest obstacles on defense were stopping Kylie Holubecki inside and making it difficult for McKenzie Schueler to run the offense. The two were held to 8 points.
"(Holubecki) is pretty big and really good so we knew we had to double team her every time she got the ball," Ness said. "And (Schueler) is their main ballhandler. So we had to shut down those two and we knew if we did that we could control the game."
Kaneland didn't win a postseason game for the first time since 2011, but still enjoyed another successful season while overcoming adversity.
"Obviously Chloe (Conley) being out for most of the year, losing your starting point guard, is a big thing to overcome," Flanagan said. "But McKenzie (Schueler) stepped into that role and you know, she played hard every game for us and had some big games, made some big free throws down the stretch in games. She was able to make big strides and get some good minutes and grow a lot."
The Knights' biggest losses to graduation will be Delaney Sheehan and Keely Noel.
Junior Kelsey Modaff led Kaneland with 7 points.