Boys hoops’ journey ends at Spartans’ hand

By on March 8, 2013

Photo: Guard Drew David is fouled while trying to get to the hoop during the fourth quarter of Kaneland’s 43-32 loss to St. Francis at the Class 3A IMSA Regional Feb. 27.
Photo by Patti Wilk

Fourth quarter sees fortune upended in 11-point regional loss
by Mike Slodki
AURORA—If it weren’t for a tough fourth quarter, Kaneland boys basketball could be talking about a regional final in Aurora.

An evenly matched game at Illinois Math and Science Academy against the No. 2 seed St. Francis was a tight affair, until the Spartans made a run and stopped the Knights 43-32 on Feb. 27.

The game was rescheduled due to less-than-stellar travel conditions and snowfall on Feb. 26.

Kaneland’s road stops with a 16-12 record for 2012-13, after garnering 17 victories in each of coach Brian Johnson’s first three seasons.

In 2011-12, the Knights powered through to the sectional semifinal in Sycamore before losing to Rockford East.

Aurora Central Catholic pulled an upset over Wheaton Academy, 41-37, in the first game of the evening, while the 3A Regional final on Friday featured St. Francis taking the plaque over ACC by a 46-43 tally.

St. Francis was scheduled to face Sycamore in the Freeport Sectional on Wednesday.

Senior Dan Miller paced the Knights with 10 points, while fellow senior Matt Limbrunner added nine.

It was fitting that the last challenge was buoyed by the two lone seniors in coach Johnson’s program this year.

“Those two came from a sophomore team that went 24-1; you look forward to getting that group. They stick with it and everyone else kind of disappears. They stuck with the program and gave me all they had, and they were my first freshman class,” Johnson said.

Senior Tim Zettinger had a game-high 21 for St. Francis.

In the first frame, Tyler Carlson’s bucket and a later free throw gave KHS a 7-2 lead with 3:17 left, but the Spartans scored the last six points of the quarter, including a buzzer-beating arc from Zettinger to fall behind 8-7.

Kaneland’s shooting touch disappeared the last half of the second quarter, with Limbrunner’s two foul shots breaking a 4:21 drought to close within 15-14. The Spartans’ bucket with 45.9 left extended the lead to 17-14 before halftime.

The Knights’ shooting touch picked up to give the lower seed a lift in the third quarter. Limbrunner hit a shot, followed by two from Miller and a baseline jumper from John Pruett that tied the score at 22-22 with 4:45 to go.

A feed from Limbrunner found Pruett to take the lead for KHS at 24-22 with 2:59. After a foul shot and steal and follow-through from St. Francis, a Limbrunner contested shot gave the Knights a 26-25 edge with 37.2 to go in the third quarter.

With both squads looking for their edge, Miller’s two free throws closed it to 29-28 after St. Francis took a lead.

Kaneland took its last lead of the game on a Limbrunner three with 4:15 to go for a 31-29 lead before St. Francis went on a 14-1 run to close the game. The Spartans went 7-for-8 from the foul line to help their cause. The final point of the season for KHS was a Drew David free throw with 1:16 remaining to close within 37-32.

“We didn’t hit shots down the stretch,” Johnson said. “We didn’t take care of the ball; there were a few times in the third quarter that hurt. Matt (Limbrunner) hit that three, and we got a lead. It could have went either way, and unfortunately it went against us.”