Boys basketball: Johnsburg can’t keep up with Byron in Class 2A regional final loss

Skyhawks fall to Tigers 62-31, finish season with 7th most 3-pointers in IHSA history

Johnsburg Skyhawks logo

GENOA – Johnsburg coach Mike Toussaint reminded his team of everything it accomplished during a season in which not many expected the Skyhawks to do a whole lot.

Winning a conference championship for the first time in 18 years. Finishing as one of the state’s most prolific 3-point shooting teams of all time.

The fourth-seeded Skyhawks, who buried teams from beyond the 3-point line all winter to the tune of 346 3s, saw their memorable season come to an end Friday night with a 62-31 loss to top-seeded Byron in the Class 2A Genoa-Kingston Regional final.

The Tigers (27-2) move on to play third-seeded Riverdale in a Mendota Sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Johnsburg, which went 13-1 to win the Kishwaukee River Conference outright, finished the season with an 18-15 record.

Prior to this year, the last Skyhawks team to win conference was in 2006.

“Next year, I really see them having a chance to win [conference] again. They’re not really losing much. These guys play all the time together and they’re just getting started.”

—  Ben Person, Johnsburg senior guard

“We went into the season with zero expectations,” Toussaint said. “We lost four starters. For them to come out and do what they did, breaking records, winning conference and getting to the regional championship, that’s a success.

“This is not what we expected tonight. But we’ve got to keep building and getting better. Our motto all year was, ‘We’ve got next.’ This was that next group, and they stepped up and did it.”

Johnsburg felt good early, making its first two 3s against Byron, with junior guard JT Schmitt and sophomore guard Jarrel Albea both sinking one. But Byron’s pressure caused all sorts of problems for Johnsburg, which finished with 21 turnovers to Byron’s seven.

“We couldn’t break the press, it was that easy,” said Schmitt, who had three 3s for nine points to lead Johnsburg. “If we break their press, that game is a totally different game. If you look at the half-court, they probably were five or 10 points better than us. They probably got 25 points off turnovers, and that was the game right there. We just couldn’t figure it out.”

Byron took a 30-19 lead into halftime and started to pull away in the third quarter, outscoring Johnsburg 25-4. The Tigers made 10 of 17 shots in the third quarter while the Skyhawks were only 2 of 8.

Byron coach Matt Huels said the Tigers practiced all week at closing out on Johnsburg’s shooters. The Skyhawks were 6 of 16 from long distance, while Byron finished 11 of 24. Earlier this season, Johnsburg had 21 3s in a game.

“[Johnsburg] runs their dribble-drive stuff really good, and high school kids are so used to helping on drives,” Huels said. “We had two days to prepare and the kids really bought into, ‘You’ve really got to stay on your guy and close out on their shooters.’ Even if they beat us on the dribble, they still want to kick, make one more, and shoot the 3.”

Sophomore guard Carson Newton led Byron with 17 points and five 3s, senior Ryan Tucker tossed in 16 points and three 3s, and Caden Considine finished with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

JT Schmitt led the Skyhawks with nine points, followed by Albea (six points) and senior Ben Person (four points, six rebounds).

Johnsburg finished the season with 346 3-pointers and passed Ridgeview, which had 342 3s during the 2014-15 season, on Friday for seventh on the state’s all-time list.

“I’m going to remember we were able to finally win a conference [title] and how we were able to come under the radar and attack everyone,” Person said. “Next year, I really see them having a chance to win [conference] again. They’re not really losing much.

“These guys play all the time together and they’re just getting started.”

Schmitt said the Skyhawks had fun playing the underdog role.

“I just don’t think people knew of us,” Schmitt said. “We’ve been playing against each other for a while now, every day in the backyard and we’re just going at it and getting better every single day. We knew we could shoot it. One game we hit a lot of 3s, so we were like, ‘Oh, that’s what we do.’ ”