MAPLE PARK – Winning 10 games in a row already suggests Kaneland is firing on all cylinders at the present moment.
However, it’s winning those games in all sorts of different ways on a given night.
“We’re an 11-1 team, so we’re happy to have that,” Kaneland junior Troyer Carlson said following Kaneland’s 49-38 victory over Plano on Tuesday. “We have some slow games like this in [Interstate 8] Conference [and] you’ve got to grind out those wins. We’re a very talented team and we have high expectations of what we’re supposed to do this season: Win conference, win regionals, so just get better everyday basically. That’s the main thing.”
“We’ve played different style games and we tried to do that purposely,” Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said. “For example, [last] Saturday, we played Johnsburg and it was 88-71. Different style of game. Tonight, conference game, grind it out and tip your hat to Plano.”
Carlson, who scored 19 points, helped keep Kaneland going when it appeared to stall in spurts offensively. Perhaps Carlson’s most standout play came with 2:13 remaining when the Knights had an eight-point lead. The 6-foot-3 guard crashed hard into the paint and converted a layup while also drawing a foul, which he made, to make the Plano deficit 11.
The Reapers (2-10, 1-4) answered back with three made free throws from AJ Johnson and then Davione Stamps forced a steal off the ensuing inbound and converted the layup to claw back within six with two minutes remaining.
Kaneland guard Gevon Grant split two free throws and two made free throws each from Carlson and Johnny Spallasso ensured the win.
“They forced us into some tough shots and we think early on tonight, we didn’t hit shots,” Colombe said. “We forced a few things [and] guys were trying a little bit too hard; they’re trying to do the right thing, but maybe forcing some shots and then our offense got stuck. That’s going to happen in a high school season and it’s our job to clean it up. And we will.”
Carlson, the three-year varsity player, was expected to continue to be a key scorer for the Knights this season. Thus far, he’s satisfied those expectations.
“Being a two-year player before, I know I had to come in and be a leader on this team,” Carlson said. “We have some young guys on our team; we have three underclassmen [so] make them better every day and show them what the game of basketball is all about. And if I can get them better and the rest of the players better and be a leader on this team, that’s all I can really do.”
The Knights (11-1, 5-0) led 23-17 at the half. Plano was able to pull within 26-23 with 4:45 left in the third quarter after a quick six-point surge, but went cold shooting in stretches which allowed Kaneland to get back on track.
Kaneland was also led by Parker Violett’s seven points and 11 rebounds.
“We’ve struggled all year shooting the ball. We’re waiting for one of those hot nights to get us going, but we just kind of have to change our focus a little bit,” Reapers coach Kyle Kee said. “They’re just not falling and when you get to this point, we got to get the ball inside. I thought we attacked them really hard tonight. Got them in some foul trouble. I think, for the most part, we were more aggressive I think all night.”
Plano was paced by Bernard Clark’s 10 points, while Stamps had seven points and three rebounds. James Pugh had six points and Kaleb Videckis had five points and six rebounds.
“Our record is what it is but I think we’re coming along,” Kee said. “I think we really struggled [earlier in the season] right off the bat in varsity experience. Whether we thought we were going to be better than we were or whatever, but I think we’re going to have a really good second half. We talked about it right now. I don’t care what our record is. We’ve passed on through that, so we’re just trying to get better.”