June 17, 2024
Illinois High School Sports

Girls basketball: Dixon defense slows Kaneland as Duchesses win sectional title

Dixon freshman Ahmyrie McGowan finishes with 12 points, 16 rebounds in win

Kaneland's Kendra Brown gets to the basket in front of Dixon’s Katie Drew Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, during their Class 3A sectional final game at Sycamore High School.

SYCAMORE – Someone was winning their first sectional crown since 1990 when Kaneland and Dixon faced off in the Class 3A Sycamore Sectional title game.

It’s the Duchesses and their stingy defense that are advancing to the Elite Eight.

Freshman Ahmyrie McGowan powered the offense early, and Dixon stymied Kaneland standout Kendra Brown all night in a 45-36 win.

“It’s amazing. We had a goal, and we knew what we wanted,” said McGowan, who finished with 12 points, 16 rebounds and five steals. “We got to it, and we’re excited and happy.”

Dixon (27-6) will face Lincoln (35-0), the East Peoria Sectional winner, at 7 p.m. Monday in the La Salle-Peru Supersectional for a trip to state.

Dixon scored 13 of the first 15 points in the contest, including six by McGowan. After that, Kaneland (25-10) never got within seven again.

“It’s just so amazing,” Dixon coach Luke Ravlin said. “I’m so proud of these kids and proud of our program. It’s taken a lot of people putting in a lot of hard work, all the players we’ve had over the years, all the coaches, all of that, and it just feels amazing.”

Dixon led 28-15 at the break behind 10 points and 11 rebounds from McGowan in the first half. McGowan’s only bucket of the second half came on a layup off her own steal, pushing the lead for the Duchesses to 15 for the first time with 3:28 left in the third quarter.

But the Knights rolled off a 12-4 run to cut the Dixon lead to 38-31 with 2:57 left. Sam Kerry had the last four of that run and finished with a team-high 12.

Dixon didn’t score another field goal – their last bucket was a layup by Hallie Williamson with 4:03 left right before the 6-0 Kaneland run – but did enough at the line and on defense to secure the win.

Neither team had won a sectional since 1990. Dixon won its first regional since 2003 and now is looking for its first state trip since 1982, according to IHSA archives.

“I’m really proud of this team and how far we’ve come, but we’re not done yet,” said Williamson, who had a game-high 13 points along with seven rebounds. “Hopefully, we can make it to state, but you never know. We’re not done.”

Dixon limited Brown, the Knights’ leading scorer, to five points on 1-of-13 shooting, her only field goal a 3-pointer with 12.1 seconds left that cut the lead to 43-36. Sam Kerry scored 12 to lead the Knights, Alexis Schueler added 11, and Brown had a team-high 10 rebounds.

Kaneland coach Brian Claesson said teams have been focusing on Brown all postseason, and Ravlin said that was the Duchesses’ plan, as well.

“It is what it is,” Claesson said. “We had other girls step up throughout the playoffs. Lexi and Sam, I thought, played awesome tonight. It’s a tough game, someone had to lose, and it just happened to be us.”

Claesson said it was a great season for the Knights, who beat rival Sycamore to reach the title game and had a chance to win the Interstate 8 Conference title, losing a winner-take-all contest to the Spartans in early February.

“I just told them it was the most fun I’ve ever had coaching,” Claesson said. “It’s just such a great group of girls. The seniors are girls who just embody what our program culture is. It stings this is their last game, but I’m so proud of them.”

Eddie Carifio

Eddie Carifio

Daily Chronicle sports editor since 2014. NIU beat writer. DeKalb, Sycamore, Kaneland, Genoa-Kingston, Indian Creek, Hiawatha and Hinckley-Big Rock coverage as well.