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Defense saved the day as Kaneland held off Hinckley-Big Rock’s hopes for a nonconference upset Tuesday as the host Knights pulled out a 44-42 win.
After Kaneland’s Matt Limbrunner made only the front end of a one-and-bonus with 11.1 seconds, the visiting Royals used a full timeout to set up a play hoping to extend their win streak to four. However, a tipped pass and steal by John Pruett instead gave Kaneland only its second victory in six outings.
“Give 100 percent credit to Kaneland for a great job defensively of getting in our heads,” H-BR coach Bill Sambrookes said.
“I got lucky to get a hand on the ball,” Pruett said of his pivotal steal.
The Royals (6-2) had turned an early 6-2 deficit into the game’s only double-digit advantage (23-13) with 4:15 left in the opening half. But Limbrunner nailed the second and third of his three-pointers to help the Knights close to 25-22 at intermission.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the first half and had to fight to stay in the game, but we really stepped up defensively in the second half and scrambled better against their traps,” Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said. “Matt kept us in the game in the first half and everyone had a hand in the second. Cole (Carlson) did a great job getting us late buckets.”
All six of Cole Carlson’s points came in the fourth quarter while Limbrunner, limited by four fouls, atoned for missing a one-and-bonus by adding the one free throw at the end for a team-high 14 while Pruett added 12 and Tyler Carlson tallied 10.
“They’re a good team but I think we wanted it more in the second half and it doesn’t matter to us who scores,” Cole Carlson said.
Hinckley-Big Rock standout Bernie Conley finished with a game-best 17, but only two of that tally came during the second half with Michael Bayler adding 14.
“Bernie had a great first half, but he and our team have to learn to stay focused. There was a lot of physical play in the second half and that also wore us down,” Sambrookes added.