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La Salle-Peru boys basketball coach Jim Cherveny felt his players weren’t up to speed in the practices leading up to Saturday’s Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference crossover game against Kaneland.
“We were just kind of moving slow,” Cherveny said. “I don’t know if there’s an exact science to it or answer to it. We’re getting to a long stretch in the season right now where maybe we have some tired legs or tired bodies.”
It showed against the Knights.
The Cavaliers struggled offensively in a 34-32 loss in a battle of NIB 12 division leaders.
“I thought we lacked energy right off the bat,” Cherveny said. “We didn’t have the best week of practice, and I think it translated into lack of execution in tonight’s game.”
The Knights closed the first quarter on a 7-1 to take a 9-5 lead after the first eight minutes, but L-P’s defense kept it in the game.
The Cavs held Kaneland scoreless for the entire second quarter — and 10:33 total to end the first half — on 0-of-8 shooting. L-P forced five turnovers in the second quarter.
“I thought our zone worked pretty well,” Cherveny said. “We limited some inside looks with that. I thought our big guys did a good job of rebounding the ball early on.”
However, the Cavs, who were without starters Jens Soderholm (suspension) and Cameron Hight (injury), only held a 12-9 halftime lead as their offense continued to struggle.
Bret Storm started the second quarter with a 3-pointer, while Jon VonBehren added a pair of baskets to provide the rest of L-P’s offense in the quarter.
After the break, the Knights started clicking on offense.
Senior Matt Limbrunner scored down low then drained a 3-pointer on Kaneland’s first two possessions of the half.
The Knights, who forced four turnovers and scored eight points off them in the third, closed the quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 28-20 lead into the final eight minutes.
“Kaneland picked it up,” Cherveny said. “They have a nice team. They picked up their energy and their intensity a little bit. They got some deflections and forced some turnovers, and as a result they scored.”
The Cavs chipped away in the fourth and tied the game at 30-30 when Noah Lamboley hit 3-of-4 free throws following a foul and technical foul on Kaneland’s Drew David.
Kaneland took the lead back on a pair of free throws by John Pruett with 2:01 remaining, and neither team scored for the next 1 1/2 minutes.
Following a Kaneland turnover with 46.9 seconds left, the Cavs ran some clock down before Lamboley drove for the tying basket with 26.2 seconds left.
Out of a timeout, Kaneland ran some clock before David found Pruett for a backdoot basket to take a 34-32 lead with 2.7 seconds left.
The Cavs called timeout to set up their final play, but the inbounds pass was deflected and Storm’s desperation heave missed.
Lamboley led the Cavs — who shot 40.7 percent but only attempted 27 shots — with 10 points. VonBehren added eight points.
“It seemed like we were just a little hesitant to shoot the ball,” Cherveny said. “Maybe Kaneland’s size intimidated us a little bit. They were much bigger. It’s hard to get shots off against bigger players. It makes you second guess what’s a good shot versus what’s a bad shot.”
The Cavs (10-6) return to action today against Lincoln-Way West at the MLK Shootout at Joliet West. Tip-off was scheduled for 10 a.m.
Note: The L-P sophomore team won 46-40 to improve to 11-4. Luke Dresbach and Ryan Atilano each scored 12 points, while Ben Bejster added 10.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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