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Senior forward Matt Limbrunner scored a game-high 23 points Wednesday to lead Kaneland past Lisle 47-29 and into the quarterfinals of the 50th Plano Christmas Classic.
The 11th seeded Knights turned up the defensive pressure in the middle two quarters, alternating their man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone to limit the sixth seeded Lions to just 10 points.
“Obviously, you hold a team to just four points [in the 3rd] in a quarter, you have to feel pretty good about what you’re trying to do defensively,” said Kaneland coach Brian Johnson, whose team is 5-4.
Limbrunner had eight points in the second quarter and three more in the third.
“It was working really good. We were just running our offense,” Limbrunner said of his work along the baseline that led to three easy baskets, courtesy of assists from junior forward John Pruett, who added 10 points.
“Matt’s been coming into his own, scoring-wise,” Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said of the 6-4 Limbrunner. “He’s strong and smart and he’s not afraid to go against guys 2-3 inches bigger than he is.”
Limiting the Lions (6-6) running game was key, said Johnson, whose team led 10-8, 21-14 and 34-18 at the quarter marks.
“We wanted to make sure we controlled the tempo,” said Johnson. “Lisle is big and athletic and they like to get out and run. I saw them play Aurora Christian and they really got up and down the floor.”
Nine turnovers in those middle two quarters limited Lisle, which didn’t have a player score in double figures. Dawon Burrell led them with eight points.
Kaneland dodged a bullet late in the first quarter when Johnson drew a technical foul for protesting a questionable intentional foul that went against junior guard Drew David.
Lisle guard Cody Monson hit just one of four free throws in the sequence, though, and the Knights held onto their lead entering the second.
That’s when Limbrunner and Pruett began clicking. Pruett, a 6-2 junior, fed Limbrunner twice for easy baskets. Limbrunner also swished through a 3-pointer as the Knights led 21-14 at the break.
The duo also led Kaneland to a 30-21 rebounding advantage with Pruett pulling down eight and Limbrunner seven. Tyler Crlson, who had three 3-pointers, added 11 points for Kaneland, which meets Yorkville/Newark in Thursday’s 7 p.m. quarterfinal.