Girls Basketball: Kaneland bows out in sectional finalKelly Evers of Kaneland (34) shoots over three Belvidere North defenders. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
In losing Thursday’s Sycamore Class 3A Sectional title game to Belvidere North, Kaneland’s girls basketball team saw a perfect blueprint for how to get the job done next year.
Belvidere North reached the sectional title game last year after winning its first regional crown, but lost. This year, the Blue Thunder won their first sectional title over Kaneland 43-31 to move on to Monday’s Elgin Class 3A Supersectional.
“I guess that’s our challenge, follow their lead and try to get back here and move on next year,” Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said. “I think we gained a lot. It was a great experience. I think the kids enjoyed the atmosphere of the playoffs. The kids have to have a taste for this, and I think they do.”
Free throws wound up being the key factor down the stretch for both teams. Kaneland (20-10) was doing well defensively, holding Belvidere North (23-9) to six points through the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. But the Knights hit only 1-of-4 free throw attempts, missing the front end of bonus situations twice. Meanwhile, the Blue Thunder hit 7-of-8 as a team as they extended the lead out in the final 1:23 of play.
“I thought free throws hurt us tonight,” Colombe said. “In games like this, sometimes those are the difference and they come back to bite you and they did tonight.”
Kaneland fell behind 18-14 at the half, but quickly came back to tie the game twice early in the third quarter, both on Kelly Evers layups. Her second one was of the rebound variety with three minutes left in the third, tying the game at 22-22. But Belvidere North’s Katie Dovenuehle followed with a bucket on the next trip to trigger a 9-0 run that opened a 31-22 lead.
The big bucket in that run was a three-pointer from Belvidere North sophomore guard Haley Grana with 45 seconds left in the third quarter.
“It gave us nice momentum,” Belvidere North coach Michael Bradford said. “It lifted us. She had the confidence to take it. That takes a lot of courage, there’s no doubt about that.”
Dovenuehle scored 12 points to lead all scorers from Belvidere North. Kirsten Larson added 11 for the Blue Thunder.
Evers scored 11 points to tie Sarah Grams for team-high honors in the loss. Evers is one of only two seniors the Knights will graduate.
“I’m super proud of the kids,” Colombe said. “You couldn’t have a greater group of kids in the program right now. We have a bunch of kids returning. They’re hungry. They got a taste of this and they want to get back. We’ve got nothing to hang our heads about.”