SYCAMORE – Kendra Brown was draining 3-pointers, and a 10-point Sycamore lead had been cut to four by halftime against Kaneland in an Interstate 8 battle Thursday.
But the Spartans held the Knights to only 13 second-half points in a 50-40 win, not only clinching the Interstate 8 title but avenging a loss in Maple Park in December.
“You’re just sitting there like, did we not learn from the last game? Come on,” Sycamore coach Adam Wickness said.
But Wickness said he was proud how the team responded. Brown made her first three 3-pointers of the game and the Knights (12-15, 7-6) were 4 for 6 from long range in the first half.
Kaneland didn’t make a 3-pointer in the second half, and the Spartans (18-11, 12-1) walked away with the win and the conference title. The Knights also snapped Sycamore’s 51-game conference win streak dating back to 2018.
Brown had 15 points in the game but only one field goal and four points in the second half. She scored 29 against the Spartans in December.
“We had something to prove,” said Sycamore junior point guard Lexi Carlsen, who scored 15 points and handled guarding Brown when the Spartans weren’t in a zone. “I’m sure they were confident beating us two times in a row, they beat us in the summer, too. So again, we had something to prove right when we stepped on the floor.”
Senior Evyn Carrier had 15 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks for the Spartans, while Malerie Morey scored 11. Wickness said he believes it’s the first time a Sycamore player has scored in double digits off the bench this season.
Most of the scoring load for the Spartans this season has fallen on Carrier and Carlsen. Monroe McGhee – who had nine points and 12 rebounds Thursday – has been a consistent third option, but beyond that Sycamore has looked for more consistency in its scoring.
But with Morey’s performance and the emergence of Sophia Klacik over the past few weeks, Carlsen said it’s a good confidence booster before the postseason.
“It goes to show not just me and Evyn have to score,” Carlsen said. “We do have other threats that other people have to put on their scouting reports day in, day out. Sofe [Klacik] can come out, step out, hit a couple 3s. Morey can come in and hit a couple 3s. We have more threats than me and Evyn.”
Sycamore led 26-16 early in the second quarter, and a 3-pointer by McGhee with 3:59 left in the half put the Spartans ahead 31-22. But Kaneland held them scoreless the rest of the half, forcing turnovers and drawing to within 31-27 at the break.
Up by five in the final three minutes of the third quarter, Morey made a layup and was fouled, converting a three-point play for a 42-34 Sycamore lead. The margin never got within six again.
“She provided us the offense we needed,” Wickness said. “She came in and made a huge and-one and knocked the free throw down, and that was big for us. She played awesome for us tonight.”
Kaneland went the final 9:28 without making a field goal. Sycamore outscored the Knights 6-4 in a defensive-minded fourth quarter.
The Knights were 0 for 9 in the fourth quarter from 3-point range.
“I think switching to our zone in the fourth quarter kind of threw them off,” Wickness said. “They stopped making shots. I feel like we were able to contest the perimeter a little bit better there.”
Kaneland coach Brian Claesson said that’s the sort of stretch the team needs to build off of heading into the postseason.
“Girls were communicating, they were flying around,” Claesson said. “It was good to see that. Now we have to make sure we do that every single game the rest of the year.”