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John Pruett (right) of Kaneland battles for a loose ball with Luke Manning of Rochelle. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Kaneland overcame double-digit deficits and Rochelle’s long-range bombing to hang on for a 65-62 home victory Thursday.
“Just a typical game with Rochelle,” Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said with a nod to last year’s regional overtime win over the Hubs which gave the Knights’ the rubber match win over their Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference foe.
“Obviously they shot the ball well (from outside) and that’s what they do, but in the second half we guarded the arc much better,” Johnson added in reference to Rochelle (5-11) nailing nine of 15 first-half field goals from three-point range, but having only five of eight over the third and fourth quarters.
Kaneland (9-6) had the game’s opening bucket and added another for a 4-3 lead before Rochelle built a 19-14 first-quarter advantage and varying double-figure leads prior to a 40-29 halftime tally.
“We’ve been down like that before in other games and even against Rochelle, so we knew we just had to come back and play much better defense in the second half,” explained Drew David, who was also instrumental offensively with a bucket and 3-of-4 free throws over the fourth quarter when the Knights outscored Rochelle 20-11.
The third quarter was the Matt Limbrunner Show as the senior forward used putbacks, lean-in drives, and pivot jumpers to score 12 of his game-high 23.
“They’ve got good players who can hit a lot of threes, but our goal was to keep chipping away and get it down to five or six by the end of third quarter (51-45). Defensively we were more prepared over the second half and kept scoring,” Limbrunner said.
Dan Miller had a rebound putback for the second early in the fourth quarter and nailed a pair from the charity stripe with 5:12 remaining to put the Knights on top for the first time since the game’s initial baskets. Consecutive slashes by John Pruett --- who had nine of his 17 (three shy of a career best) --- over the second half to keep momentum with Kaneland and set the stage for David’s crucial points over the final three minutes.
Rochelle, still missing an all-conference standout in Matt Rosenwinkel, welcomed the return of another standout in Grant Prusator. The Hubs’ senior finally returned to action in big-time fashion with 11 points in the second quarter and the last two of his five three-pointers during the third frame. His 17 was matched by Luke Manning, who carried Rochelle in the opening eight minutes with 14 points. Kole Smart chipped in 13.