Kaneland and Sycamore engaged in an intense, physical Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference duel in Maple Park Tuesday that saw the Spartans maintain a slim lead throughout most of the game.
Yet, with 11 seconds left, Kaneland trailed by 2 points. They had not had a lead since 3:30 remained in the second quarter.
Sycamore had an opportunity to extend its lead further, but missed two of four free throws in the final minute. After calling timeout, Knights coach Brian Johnson planned to set up leading scorer Matt Limbrunner for the tying basket.
We were trying to get Matt on a dive down, or a screen, he explained.
Limbrunner eventually received the ball and immediately found himself swarmed by Sycamore defenders. But he noticed point guard Drew David standing alone at the top of the left key and outside the three-point arc.
Limbrunner passed out to David, who faked his first shot and then calmly released the ball.
When it left my hand, it looked dead on. David said. I knew it had the potential.
And that potential was realized as the ball swished through the net for a game-winning three at the buzzer, giving Kaneland a dramatic 43-42 victory.
The Knights (11-6) are now in first place in conference with a 5-1 record and have won five straight games.
The first half was marked by Sycamores aggressive defense and Kanelands foul issues. By the first few minutes of the third quarter, John Pruett, David, and Limbrunner all had three fouls.
Sycamore took advantage, including closing the first half on an 8-0, with the last four points coming from Ben Niemann. Spartan center Scott Nelson led all scorers at half with 9 points and his shot-blocking and rebounding frustrated the Knights.
But Kaneland, highlighted by forward Tom Van Bogaert and the hustle of Cole Carlson, kept hanging around. Carlson drained a three from the left corner as the first quarter buzzer blared.
They were real physical with us in the first half, Johnson explained. I told our boys at halftime we had to get that lead to three going to the fourth and let the chips fall where they may. They did a nice job of that and they were fighting.
Limbrunner began to find his groove after the break. After getting shut out in the first half, he scored eight of Kanelands 12 points in the third quarter, eventually finishing with a team-high 12 for the game.
With 1:11 remaining in the fourth quarter, he also drained a long jumper to tie the score at 40-40. Pruett also contributed with 10 first-half points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
For Sycamore (11-8, 2-3), Nelson, who did not score in the fourth quarter, and Niemann both finished with a team-high 12 points.