MAPLE PARK – An extremely loud fire alarm caused a mass exodus from the Kaneland gym midway through the first quarter of its Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference crossover game against Geneseo on Saturday, but no one appeared worried.
They saved their concerns for Kaneland senior Jenni Weber. The Knights’ star 1,000-plus point scorer crashed onto the hardwood after a missed shot at the midpoint of the second quarter and left the game in obvious pain with an ankle injury.
Fortunately for Weber and the Knights, she’d return in the second half, gritting her teeth through the pain while helping to end Geneseo’s 12-game winning streak with an impressive 61-50 victory in the regular-season finale.
It also served as a senior night celebration for Weber and her fellow senior, Jamie Martens.
“You obviously don’t want to see anyone get hurt, especially at this time of the year, where we’re coming to the postseason,” Knights coach Ernie Colombe said. “It was good to see her come back, and hopefully she can get a few days’ rest before Tuesday and be good to go.”
Kaneland (24-4) opens the postseason in the Class 3A Sycamore semifinals Tuesday against St. Edward.
Martens scored a career-high
25 points and Weber scored 21, as the two seniors went out with style – albeit with one limping.
“We’re so good at reading each other, and I just love playing with her,” Martens said. “When she went down, I was very nervous because I knew I had to step back in without her and keep fighting to win.”
Weber said the combination of ibuprofen and adrenaline worked wonders.
“Once I got going again, I didn’t feel the pain as much,” she said. “This had never happened to me before. I never had to be carried off the court, and I’ve never had to run outside because of a fire drill. It was definitely an experience.”
Martens tied the game for the fifth and final time at 36-all after a basket with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter.
Geneseo (20-8) responded by scoring three straight baskets to take its biggest lead at 42-36, but the Knights answered with a game-breaking 16-0 run that culminated with an NBA-length 3-pointer from Weber.
Her layup with 4:27 left in the game made it 52-42.
“They went on that spurt there, and we didn’t match it,” Maple Leafs coach Scott Hardison said. “There’s a reason they’re the No. 8 team in the state, and I thought being ahead going into the fourth quarter that we showed we were ready to go, but give their two seniors credit. They did a really good job, especially Martens going left when Weber was out with her injury.”
Sophomore Kelly Noel also stepped up big for the Knights, knocking down a pair of jumpers early in the fourth quarter as part of Kaneland’s big run.
“All year long we’ve been going inside and out to open upshots for everyone,” Noel said. “We practice all the time about getting everyone open to keep shooting, so I had to step up and help the team.”
When more names appear in the scoring column, the Knights become a tougher team to beat.
“We’re at our strongest when we have multiple people looking to shoot and attack,” Colombe said. “Sometimes we play a little too unselfish and pass up good looks, but we’ve been preaching all year that teams can key in on Jamie and Jenni, so the other three on the floor have to step up. Today, Kelly did a nice job, and she’s capable of that.”
Noel had eight points, while junior Hannah Armin scored seven for the Knights.
The Knights were outrebounded, 35-22, but forced 20 turnovers.
Josie Brown led the Maple Leafs with 11 points, and Anna McAvoy added 10.