SYCAMORE – Sycamore ended its 11-game losing streak against DeKalb last month with a resounding win at the Convocation Center.
On Friday, they started a winning streak of their own with a 54-49 win in front of a packed home crowd.
“We knew this was going to be a much tougher game this go-around,” Sycamore coach Andrew Stacy said. “I’m just proud of our guys, they found a way to win, they made some big plays down the stretch.”
The Barbs had won three out of four games heading into Friday’s contest, so a closer game than Sycamore’s 23-point blowout in January was expected.
Sycamore took an eight-point lead into the second quarter after beginning the game with an 8-0 run
But this time, DeKalb didn’t let the Spartans pull away.
Junior Justin Love, playing for starter Jake Smith, who was out sick, brought the Barbs back with 11 first-half points. After closing out the half with a 5-0 run, the Barbs trailed just 28-25 heading into the break.
“Justin Love played outstanding,” coach Dave Rohlman said. “He got a lot more minutes tonight than he’s been getting. I thought he played great defense, and I thought he was exceptional.”
The Barbs took their first lead of the game, 38-37, with 7:10 left in the fourth quarter, but it was short-lived. Four free throws and a layup by Ben Niemann in the next two minutes put the Spartans back in the driver’s seat. Niemann scored 10 points, eight of which came after the Barbs took the lead.
“We weren’t really playing our best basketball or playing as hard as we could,” Niemann said. “When they took the lead, we kind of woke up and I said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to play, we can’t let this game slip through our fingers.’”
The Spartans went on a 12-2 run, and the Barbs couldn’t respond.
With two starters out sick, coach Dave Rohlman was encouraged by Friday’s performance.
“I thought we did everything to win the game,” DeKalb coach Dave Rohlman said. “[The Barbs’ recent stretch has] been really encouraging. Honestly, it doesn’t surprise me because I knew we had this ability and talent, and it took us a lot longer to get it rolling. I’m very pleased with our effort tonight going into Monday’s game.”
Sycamore ends up second in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East after Kaneland defeated Rochelle, 69-66, to win the division title. The Spartans will play Rochelle in the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional on Tuesday.
Just to be in the running for a conference title was an accomplishment for a team that won just nine games a season ago. Sweeping their rival was pretty special, too.
“In the second half, we picked it up and pulled out the win … At the beginning of the season, we weren’t winning these games,” Mottet said. “This program has come a long way.”