Christmas Classic begins with minor holiday hangup

By on December 31, 2013
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Photo: Senior Tyler Carlson had averaged 16.5 points per game at the 2014 Plano Christmas
Classic. The Knights lost their first game last week, but won three straight to place ninth in the tournament. Photo by Patti Wilk

Knights get back on track against Genoa-Kingston, Mendota
PLANO—For one to survive and advance in the historic setting of Plano Christmas Classic, in its 51st year, a team has to get off on the right foot.

In the tournament opener on Dec. 26, the No. 4 seed Knights boys basketball team (7-3) suffered a 57-50 loss to the No. 13 seed Newark Norsemen of the Little Ten Conference.

The Knights then battled No. 5 seed Genoa-Kingston, which had lost to No. 12 Aurora Christian in yet another minor upset, on Friday afternoon, ending in a 52-40 comeback win.

After Friday’s result, the Knights battled Mendota on Saturday and eked their way to a 65-64 win.

Kaneland then defeated Dixon to claim ninth place on Monday. In 2012, Kaneland finished in fourth place overall, and won it all in 2009, its first year back to the tournament after holiday stops in DeKalb and Marengo.

Against the perennial small-school powerhouse Newark on Thursday morning, the Knights were led by guard Tyler Carlson with 15 points and forward John Pruett with 14. Backcourt general Drew David had 11 points to supplant the effort.

For Newark, the brother combination of Jack Clausel (19 points) and Will Clausel (16 points) made life difficult for the Knights on the heels of holiday celebration.

Kaneland was 23-for-65 from the field during the loss, including a mediocre 9-for-33 in the second half.

The Knights led 16-10 after the first eight minutes of play, and fell victim to an offensive barrage from the Little Ten stalwart, trailing 31-29 at the halftime horn. Newark powered through even more in the third frame and took a 43-35 lead before Kaneland closed the margin slightly in the loss.

On Friday in action against the Cogs, Carlson had 15 points, while David and Pruett each supplied 12. KHS was 20-for-53 from the field and 17-for-24 from the foul line. G-K was led by Tommy Lucca’s 13.

Two three-pointers by David and a keen bucket down low from Pruett helped give Kaneland an early 12-6 lead in the first quarter, but a free throw and three-pointer closed it on G-K’s end to 12-10 by the end of the frame.

Connor Fedderly hit a three to break a tie and make it 15-12 with 5:25 left in the half, breaking a five-minute scoring drought. G-K then converted on five consecutive shot opportunities and led 22-20 with 1:01 remaining. The Cogs then hit the back end of a pair of free throws to go up 23-20 at halftime.

The third-quarter tide turned fairly quickly when Pruett’s bucket, David’s try and Ryan David’s basket gave Kaneland a 27-23 lead just 1:10 into the frame.

Carlson put in a putback for a 31-25 lead with 2:05 to go before G-K made its only field goal of the quarter, a trifecta, to close within 31-28 with 1:28 to go before Pruett’s free throw pair with 38.4 to go stretched the lead before the buzzer at 33-28.

The fast-break tempo that Kaneland used to its benefit soon gave way to ball control, peppered by a three-pointer and putback by Carlson and a basket by Cole Carlson to make it 40-28 with 6:07 to go. KHS made 10-of-12 foul shots down the stretch to get the lead to much as 13 at 48-35 with 1:07 to go.

David and crew noticed the difference in on-court performance.

“We made good plays, it gave us one-on-one momentum,” David said. “We come into each game, you don’t really have time to change things too much. But when you get on the floor, you definitely have to adjust.”

After the loss to Newark, the G-K game was a little more like it.

“We need to be more fundamentally sound because of the way we played yesterday, we turned the ball over a lot. I thought the kids did a good jonb handling pressure in the second half and handling the ball in the fourth quarter. They extended the lead and held it toward the end,” KHS coach Brian Johnson said.

Against the Mendota Trojans, the Knights found themselves down 27-12 after one, and 45-35 at the half buzzer before turning on the comeback afterburners and closing to within 53-46 after three and outscoring the Trojans 19-11 in the fourth.

The Knights were paced by Ryan David’s 16, Drew David’s 15 and Tyler Carlson’s 12.

The Trojans were led by James Carroll with 28 points, 24 hours after setting a tournament record with 42 points in over Forreston.

Monday had Kaneland scheduled to face Dixon in the tournament finale for the Knights with ninth place on the line. The Knights never trailed after a 12-5 opening quarter. Tyler Carlson’s 19 points and Pruett’s 17 points let KHS. Ryan david had 8 points over NIB-12 west team.

On Saturday, Jan. 4, the Knights begin the second half of their schedule with a trip to the United Center in Chicago for the first time since February 2010, against Geneva at 2 p.m.

Editor note: This story has been updated from the originally published version with information from Monday’s game vs. Dixon at the Plano Christmas Classic.