DeKALB – As strange as he said it sounds, DeKalb girls basketball coach Tyler Bantz said he was impressed with how his team played in a 28-point loss.
The Barbs opened their home Martin Luther King Jr. Tournament with a 71-43 loss to Rock Island on Saturday, one of the top teams in the state. They followed it with a 49-30 loss to Burlington Central.
“It was by far a tale of two games, and it sounds crazy to say it, but the one on the scoreboard that was the bigger loss was by far the better game,” Bantz said. “Rock Island is a very talented team – they’re state-ranked – and they have two of the best players in the state, if not the country. Division I athletes. I think we took that as a big-time personal challenge.”
The Rocks, who won, 73-33, against Bartlett in their late game, feature a pair of athletes who will end up at NCAA Division I schools. Brea Beal is a junior and hasn’t committed yet, while senior Chrislyn Carr is headed to Texas Tech next season.
Carr struggled from long distance, shooting 2 of 14, but still finished with 25 points on 10 of 24 shooting overall. Beal, who has been offered by multiple D-I schools including Tennessee, finished with 15 points, 15 rebounds and 14 steals.
The game was tied at 12 when the Rocks (14-6, with three losses coming at a national tournament) made three 3-pointers in less than a minute as part of a larger 16-0 run that took four minutes.
“We made three shots,” Rock Island coach Hoover said. “We just need to do some things better.”
Hoover said the team didn’t play its best.
“Eh, we played better,” Hoover said. “We just need to play better basketball. We’re a little lethargic.”
The Barbs (4-16) fought back, pulling to within 46-35 with 3:18 left on a layup by Ashley Nelson, who followed her six-point game against Rock Island with 12 against Burlington Central.
But the Rocks expanded it to 15, then went on a 14-0 run in 4:36 to turn the game into a rout.
“Eventually we wore down,” Bantz said. “They hit some shots, they got a few transition layups in a row, we turned the ball over a little bit. But everything considered, I’m happy with how we played. We fought like crazy, we did a ton of things well, we made smart passes and we knocked down shots.”
“We fought back, to the girls’ credit,” he said. “We were a play or two away from really putting some pressure on them. I don’t think the Rock Island team expected us to be so scrappy and continue to fight back, which is what we did.”
Bantz said Rock Island’s size and speed was too much for the Barbs – the size resulted in a 46-27 rebounding edge, the speed resulted in 31 DeKalb turnovers against the Rocks’ press, and together that resulted in the Barbs taking 25 fewer shots than the Rocks. Carr and Beal had more shots combined than all of DeKalb.
Mills and Sanaa Finner led the Barbs with 14 points each. In the late game, Mills scored 12 despite being targeted by the Burlington Central defense.
“We tried to get some energy going,” Burlington Central coach Mark Smith said. “We ran [the press] pretty good in the first half, but they broke it in the second half. We just tried to get it more out of [Mills’] hands.”
The Rockets moved to 15-3 with the win and got 14 points and eight rebounds from Kathryn Schmidt, both game highs.
The Rockets sprang to a 12-2 lead early and, after making it 23-13, DeKalb never got to within single digits again.
“We expended so much energy in the first game we came out real slow,” said Bantz, who called two timeouts in the first three minutes of the first quarter. “We just didn’t have the energy from start to finish that we had in the Rock Island game. It was one of our best games of the year performance-wise. It was disappointing after to come out and not have that same level of intensity against Burlington Central.”
The Barbs will face Johnsburg at 9 a.m. Monday, having lost earlier in the year to the Skyhawks, 61-49.
By the numbers: Mills had seven rebounds to lead the Barbs in the early game, and Nelson had seven boards to lead the Barbs in the late game.
Beyond the stats: DeKalb committed 47 turnovers in the two games combined.
They said it: “They seemed – not happy with it, because you’re never happy with a 28-point loss – but there was three minutes in the first quarter and three minutes in the third and fourth quarter where they probably scored 30 of their points right there,” Bantz said. “We’ve been big on the four quarters all year, and we probably played 26 good minutes. They understand they have two Division I athletes and are a very good team.”
Up next: Maine South will play Rockford Boylan in a semifinal at 4:30 p.m. in the main gym, while Lincoln-Way East and Rock Island meet in the other semi in the field house with the title game at 7:30 p.m. Belvidere North will face Hinsdale Central in a consolation semi in the main gym at 10:30 a.m., with Huntley and Burlington Central playing at the same time in the field house, with the next round of the bracket at 1:30 p.m.. Plainfield East and Fremd will battle at 3 p.m., as will Bartlett and Grant, with the fifth- and seventh-place games at 6 p.m. Rockford Lutheran and Lincoln-Way Central battle in the other 9 a.m. game, with the 13th- and 15th-place games going at noon.