Boys basketball: Plano fends off Sandwich

Free throws were critical for the Reapers

Plano's Davione Stamps (10) drives for a shot against Sandwich defender Dom Rome (22) during a varsity basketball game at Plano High School on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.

PLANO – Plano survived a pair of rallies from Sandwich on Tuesday to win the Kishwaukee River Conference opener for both teams 47-40.

‘It was a very typical Plano-Sandwich game,” Reapers coach Kyle Kee said. “As soon as you think some team is going to pull away, the other team makes a quick run.”

Plano (3-2, 1-0) turned a 19-15 halftime lead into its first double-digit lead at 25-15 with 6:30 left in the third quarter after Davione Stamps made two free throws.

Free throws would prove to be key for Stamps and the Reapers. After making only 2 of 8 in the first half, they made 11 of 12. The Indians didn’t shoot any in the first half, finishing 10 of 14.

Sandwich's Dom Rome (22) puts up a shot between Plano defenders Isaiah Martinez (23) and Davione Stamps (10) during a varsity basketball game at Plano High School on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.

Stamps (12 points. 8 rebounds) was the key reason for the improvement in the second half. He made all eight of his attempts after splitting his four tries in the first half.

“It was just a little confidence thing, and I needed to get my rhythm at the free-throw line,” Stamps said. “I wasn’t taking my time. I had a thought that I had to make them, so I made sure I put them in.”

Sandwich (1-4, 0-1) fell behind 28-17 after an Isaiah Martinez 3-pointer with just under five minutes left in the third quarter.

Martinez, who led the Reapers with 15 points and nine rebounds, helped spread out the offense while his 6-foot-10 presence and wing span made things difficult for Sandwich to do what it wanted offensively.

“I thought Isaiah probably played his best game [this season],” Kee said. “He was rebounding and being physical. We told him that this would be a physical game and he held his own. He hit some shots and got competitive. He showed what kind of player he can be with that soft touch.”

Three-pointers on consecutive possessions from Drew Sullivan (12 points) helped the Indians quickly rally back. A putback from Dom Rome with 2:17 left in the third quarter pulled Sandwich to within 30-27.

Sandwich's Chance Lange (23) runs into Plano defenders Christ Keleba (3) and Isaiah Martinez (23) during a varsity basketball game at Plano High School on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.

“We know Sandwich is always going to come out hard, especially against Plano,” Stamps said. “It was a sloppy game, especially from me. We had a lot of turnovers, and I wasn’t keeping it calm and running the plays as point guard. But we held it down and made our free throws and some baskets when we needed to.”

Stamps made two free throws early in the fourth quarter to give Plano a 38-28 lead, but once again a double-digit deficit meant nothing to Sandwich.

After the possession arrow in Sandwich’s favor, the Indians finished a 10-0 run with a game-tying 3-pointer from Rome (13 points) with 4:24 left to play making it 38-all.

“I thought the biggest thing was the start of the second half,” Sandwich coach Kevin Kozan said. “I said the most important thing in the second half is the first three minutes and [Plano] came out and went up 11 and then we had to crawl back. They go up 10 again and we have to crawl back. We knows the outcome if we don’t have to crawl back. But that’s a learning thing, and we’ll learn from that. I’m excited for this team to see where we can go.”

Sullivan’s free throws with 52 seconds left accounted for Sandwich’s final two points. They pulled the Indians to within 45-40, but that’s as close as they’d get.

“You could see our growth tonight a lot,” Kozan said. “And then you saw our inexperience down the stretch where we’re down three and we have a good defensive stance and the ball hits the ground and [Plano] comes up with it. I thought that’s what killed us. They got a lot more 50/50 balls, and we had 17 turnovers.”

The teams will play again Jan. 24.

“We’ll get better, and I keep telling people to wait until January,” Kozan said. “I start a sophomore [Griffin Somlock], and my first guy off the bench is a sophomore [Braden Behringer]. I only brought back one starter [Chance Lange]. And Dom [Rome] and Quinn [Rome] got minutes but averaged about 8 or 10 minutes, so this is the first time we’re all playing together.”

Lange had 11 points for the Indians. AJ Johnson had 12 points for the Reapers, while senior Armando Martinez provided a spark off the bench with a basket and six rebounds.

“It was kind of ugly at times,” Kee said. “Offensively, we’re just really struggling. We can’t get any movement. [Sandwich was] doing a good job defensively, but we’ve got to find some way to get some open shots and knock them down. But the guys fought, and we made plays when needed to.”