Kaneland crushes Morris to reach .500

Kaneland's 1-2 punch of Ryan David and Dylan Vaca overpowered Morris in Friday night's Northern Illinois Big XII East matchup.

David dominated on both ends of the floor with 21 points and 13 rebounds while Vaca tallied all 17 of his points in the second half as the Knights cruised to a convincing 59-42 victory in Maple Park.

Kaneland (9-9, 4-3) moved to the .500 mark for the first time since they were 1-1 and avenged a 52-46 loss at Morris on December 5.

"We got Dylan going in the second half and Ryan David was excellent all game," said Kaneland coach Brian Johnson.

While David and Vaca carried the load on offense, the Knights put together a tremendous team defensive effort against an excellent shooting Morris squad.

The Knights limited Morris to just 7-of-25 shooting from 3-point range and held a commanding 36-22 advantage on the boards.

Evan Bjelland hit five of those 3-pointers to pace the Redskins (14-7, 2-3) with 17 points, but sharp-shooter Austin Patterson missed his first 8 shots and was a non-factor with just 5 points.

Patterson burned the Knights for 16 points in the first meeting.

"Rebounding and defense were our main focal points in practice this week," Vaca said.

"I give a lot of credit to Tanner Robertsen and Mitchel Groen," Johnson said. "Patterson is a phenomenal shooter and they played excellent defense and followed him the whole game."

David set the tone early, hitting a pair of trifectas and adding a follow-up basket during a 10-point Kaneland first quarter run.

"Coach said to come out shooting, stay calm and just let the game come to you and that's what I did," David said.

Bjellend drained three consecutive 3-pointers as Morris closed to within 17-14 midway through the second quarter, but Groen and Zach Douglas combined for 6 points to give the Knights a 21-16 halftime lead.

"The unsung hero tonight was Zach Douglas. He just kept hitting the boards and made some nice shots," Johnson said.

"I think we're coming together as a team and I hope we keep it rolling," said Douglas, who finished with 8 points and 5 rebounds. "I'm just trying to fill my role off the bench and it felt good to contribute."

After being outscored 20-12 in the fourth quarter at Morris, the Knights made sure there would be no late Morris comeback this time around.

Kaneland put the game out of reach with a dominant 22-8 third quarter that featured 9 points each from Vaca and David.

"Morris is always a tough game. I like playing them and it's a good rivalry," Vaca said.

Vaca who was 0-for-5 from the field in the first half, went 5-for-7 and made all 6 free throw attempts in the second half.

"I came in at halftime kind of mad at myself and I knew I had to pick it up. Coming into the third quarter I just tried to be more aggressive going to the rim," Vaca said.

The Knights will try to move over .500 and avenge another loss when they host Sycamore on Wednesday.

Morris 44, Kaneland 43: Kaneland put together a strong second half surge, but struggled down the stretch as visiting Morris captured its second 1-point win over the Knights in Northern Illinois Big XII East play.

Turnovers plagued Kaneland (13-8, 3-6) once again as they turned the ball over 25 times to just 10 for the Redskins (16-7, 7-3).

"When you have 15 less shots in a 1-point game, there's the game," said Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe. "Turnovers have been killing us the last six or seven games."

Trailing 25-19 at halftime, Camri Conley, Jennifer Weber and Ally VanBogaert each hit key 3-pointers for the Knights in the third quarter as they pulled in front 32-30.

Kaneland led 40-36 after a pair of free throws from leading scorer Bailey Crimmins (15 points) with 2 minutes remaining, but a 3-point play from Julie Jurastis (13 points) narrowed the gap to 40-39.

The Knights committed turnovers on their next three possessions and Morris seized a 44-40 advantage.

Jennifer Weber (11 points) answered with a 3-pointer for Kaneland and the Knights' defense forced a Morris turnover with 20 seconds left.

A mad scramble ensued after Morgan Weber got a good look, but missed a potential game-winning shot. Weber got the ball back in traffic, but couldn't convert an off-balance shot just before the buzzer sounded.

"We were able to get the turnover, but we were out of timeouts," Colombe said. "We came down and we got a few shots and got a good shot at the rim."

The Knights will look to snap a two-game losing streak and complete a season sweep over DeKalb Tuesday night.

"It's frustrating, because we can win games with the rest of the stuff, but we have to fix the turnovers," Colombe said.

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