Girls basketball: Kaneland beats Sycamore for first time since 2017, ends Spartans’ 51-game conference winning streak

Kaneland's Kendra Brown (23) takes a shot over Sycamore's Mallory Armstrong (1) during a game in Maple Park on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.

MAPLE PARK – Kendra Brown and the Kaneland girls basketball team made sure a couple of long streaks came to an end Wednesday in a 61-54 Interstate 8 Conference win against Sycamore.

It was the first time the Knights (4-4, 1-1 Interstate 8) had defeated the Spartans (1-7, 1-1) since Jan. 24, 2017, and Sycamore had won 51 straight conference games dating to 2018.

“I would say we were definitely locked in,” said Brown, who had a game-high 29 in the win. “We were like, we got to beat them. We wanted to win this. We were ready.”

Aside from an early 11-0 run for the Spartans, the Knights were in control throughout the game. A 30-30 game after an Evyn Carrier 3-pointer for Sycamore with 5:47 left in the third became a 50-33 Kaneland lead by the time the quarter was over.

Brown hit three 3-pointers during that run and finished 5 for 11 from long range after missing four of her first five.

“Kendra is a girl where if five shots don’t go in, she’s going to shoot the sixth one with the same confidence,” first-year Kaneland coach Brian Claesson said of his sophomore guard. “She was open, and when she gets hot, she’s tough to guard.”

Sycamore got as close as five in the closing seconds but could not get any closer.

After reaching a supersectional last year, the Spartans are now 1-7. Every team they’ve lost to is at least .500, and they have lost to two teams that are still undefeated, a one-loss team, and two 6-2 teams – and almost all Class 4A squads.

“The schedule’s been impossible, but that’s my fault though. I take full blame for that,” coach Adam Wickness said. “I think we’re going to put all our efforts into stopping Rochelle on Friday night. They are very comparable to Kaneland, so we have to come out and do the things we didn’t do to Kaneland.”

Carrier led the way for the Spartans with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Lexi Carlsen had 14 points, five rebounds and six steals. Only four players scored for the Spartans – Monroe McGhee added nine points, and Malerie Morey had a 3-pointer.

Wickness said the team is trying to find an identity on offense. And although Carrier still put big numbers, he said the Knights made her work for everything.

“I don’t want to say they took Evyn out of the game, because she had a really good game and had the numbers she normally does,” Wickness said. “But they made it hard for her. She earned every point she got tonight, and we didn’t have enough people step up on the offensive end.”

Nine players scored for the Knights, although Brown and Kailey Plank provided most of the offense, with Plank scoring 14.

“It’s a big, big win, and a good confidence boost for us,” Claesson said. “I think a lot of us, a lot of the girls don’t realize how good they actually can be. Hopefully this gives them some confidence that we can be a pretty good team.”

Claesson said after a loss last week to Winnebago, the Knights have bounced back hard with a win over Rochelle and some strong practices, locking in for the Sycamore contest. And he said he was happy to see them so excited after the win to snap the 11-game skid to the Spartans.

“It was definitely a really good feeling,” Brown said. “Really good. Especially since they won [51] in a row.”

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