Kaneland continues perfect start in Interstate Eight
Once again this year, the Kaneland girls basketball team made things difficult for another team's tallest player while scoring point after point in the paint.
Considering the Knights don't have a rotation player over 5 feet, 8 inches, dominating those aspects of the game is a challenge, one they met Tuesday in a 74-30 win over Plano on Tuesday.
"I feel like we just know we're not a tall team and we know we have to do the dirty work," said point guard Lexi Schueler, who scored a game-high 16 points almost exclusively on slashing to the bucket for a layup. "We have to box out more than other teams would. We have to front the post. We have to dive for loose balls, get all the 50-50 balls. We know we have to do all the little things."
The Knights (6-4, 4-0 Interstate 8) used a 20-0 run in the second quarter to build up 42-18 lead at the break, and had an 18-0 in the third quarter to put the game away.
"We started pretty well. The first 12 minutes it was 20-16," Plano coach Tristan Spivey said. "I told the girls I wanted to come out and compete and I felt they were doing that. Then we got in a little bit of foul trouble and we have one of our rotation players out right now. So when we're in foul trouble it's hard to get into our offense and do the things we want to do."
Mikayla Walls, a 5-10 forward, led the Reapers with 16 points, but the Knights kept pressure on her every time she got the ball. It's what they've been doing against bigger players all year -- the tallest rotation player Tuesday is the 5-8 Berlyn Ruh.
And despite a game-high eight rebounds for Walls, the Knights finished with a 39-33 edge on the glass. During the 20-0 run, 12 of the points came in the paint with Schueler and Kailey Plank slashing to the bucket for layups -- or running ahead of the Reaper defense after a forced turnover.
"They have no fear if they go in there," first-year coach Brian Claesson said. "And if they get blocked -- I've told them we're going to get blocked. We're a short team. If we get blocked, they get a baseline out-of-bounds play, we run our stuff. It's more the confidence and making the right play, and it's kind of showing."
Plano (6-5, 1-3) turned the ball over 34 times in the loss, leading to 37 points for the Knights. Kendra Brown had five steals, four rebounds and 15 points for the Knights, while Plank had four steals, four rebounds and 14 points.
Claesson said Schueler has the ability to drive to the hoop using either hand and on Tuesday whether it was going left, right or dishing it out, she made the right choice.
"It was good to see Lexi have a little scoring," Claesson said. "She's done so much for the team, handling the point guard, playing great defense. For her to break out and get some points there, help her confidence a little bit, that was the one thing out of this game that I kind looked for, and that will keep her rolling."
Josie Larson had 10 points and six rebounds for the Reapers, while Walls also had four steals on the day.
For Kaneland, Ruh scored 11 and Sam Kerry had 10 points and six rebounds off the bench.
It was the fourth straight win in a row for the Knights, including a 61-54 win last week against Sycamore, snapping the Spartans' 51-game conference winning streak and 11-game win streak against the Knights.