JOHNSONBURG – Kane had the game's highest scorer by one point Monday night but the Johnsonburg Rams took care of the rest in an 81-54 victory in the Paper City.
The visiting Wolves were fueled by sophomore forward Jeffrey Kocjancic's game-high 23 points but it wasn't enough to overcome a trio of Johnsonburg Rams scoring in double figures.
Senior Mitchell Holmberg and sophomore Cameron Grumley finished with 22 and 21 points, respectively, while sophomore Cole Peterson contributed 13 points to the winning effort.
The Rams, now 12-3 on the season, used a full-court press early on to jump out to a 22-4 lead as Holmberg started what turned out to be a career night. The Rams started out on a 9-0 run with Peterson layup, a shot from senior Kyle Sheldon a minute later for a 4-0 lead, and a Peterson free throw; senior Michael Shuey and Holmberg followed with layups for a 9-0 lead before the Wolves got on the board with a Kocjancic layup.
Johnsonburg then rattled off an 8-0 run with a layup from junior Quinn Luhr, a layup from Peterson, and a shot from Grumley in the paint for a 15-2 lead.
Shuey put in a layup at the 1:29 mark of the first quarter before Kocjancic finally answered on the other end with a short jumper to cut the lead to 17-4.
Johnsonburg capped off the strong first quarter with a 3-pointer from Grumley, the first of his three downtown shots on the night, and a backdoor layup at the buzzer from Holmberg.
"We knew Johnsonburg would come out and pressure us, and that we'd have to be able to handle that pressure to be competitive in the game," said Kane head boys varsity basketball coach Brian Wymer. "Johnsonburg jumped on us early with their full-court pressure and we need to improve with that for next year, and going forward for the rest of the year.
"We need to handle pressure defense so we don't get into a rut from the beginning."
Kane faced an early 18-point deficit after the first quarter, an advantage that Johnsonburg head boys varsity basketball coach Bill Shuey said served as a huge advantage.
"Our defense kind of set the tone but Kane kept plugging away and had some nice half-court sets, and scored with some nice plays," coach Shuey said. "We kind of fell asleep defensively a bit in the second and third quarters. We got our steals and pushed the ball, and that's what kept us with the lead."
Kane junior AJ Stefani scored a layup on the opening play of the second quarter before Grumley and Kocjancic traded 3-pointers for a 25-9 Johnsonburg lead.
Grumley would later put in a layup after a steal from Holmberg for a 27-11 lead but Kocjancic inched Kane closer with his second trey of the night with 4:36 to play in the second quarter to cut the lead to 27-14. Grumley followed with a layup and after a free throw from Kane junior Sean Rolick to cut the lead to 14 points, Holmberg put in two layups in 12 seconds for a 33-15 lead; Johnsonburg junior Frank Kocjancic followed with a jumper in the paint for the 20-point advantage with 2:40 to go until the half.
Rolick hit a pair of free throws but Frank Kocjancic answered with a layup at the 2:04 mark for a 37-17 Johnsonburg lead. After Kocjancic put in a free throw on the other end, Holmberg hit a 3-pointer with 1:47 showing for a 40-18 margin. Shuey later followed with a layup and was fouled but failed to convert the subsequent free throw attempt. Kocjancic was fouled with 30 seconds remaining but hit only one try as the Rams took a 42-19 lead to the locker room.
The Wolves fared little better in the second half as the Rams raced to their highest offensive output of the season; before last night, their season-best was a 72-47 win Dec. 16, 2011 against Sheffield.
"We hustled on the press early and got some steals but sometimes we don't finish well," coach Shuey said. "It was a team effort and some of the younger players got to get in, and some of our guys finished with a really good game."
Holmberg scored eight points in the third quarter, including a layup with four seconds on the clock for a 61-32 lead but still didn't have an answer for Kocjancic, who hit a pair of free throws and two jumpers.
"Our young guys are working to get better and to handle the pressure more," coach Wymer said. "We shot pretty well from the foul line [Monday] compared to how we typically shoot from the line and we have to keep working to get better, offensively and defensively.
"Hopefully we'll continue to work toward those goals."
Grumley opened up the fourth quarter with his final 3-pointer of the night and later added two free throws down the stretch to cap off his 21-point night.
Holmberg was fouled on a successful layup with 3:29 to play and completed the 3-point play for 22 points on the night to pace Johnsonburg in the 81-54 win.
"We hustled on the press early and got some steals but sometimes we don't finish well," coach Shuey said. "It was a team effort and some of the younger players got to get in, and some of our guys finished with a really good game.
"Our half-court game is something that we always strive to improve, just executing and we'll continue to work on that."
Johnsonburg now prepares for a Feb. 1 matchup against DuBois Central Catholic. Meanwhile, Kane falls to 1-16 on the season and will return to the drawing board Wednesday night as undefeated Ridgway (16-0) rolls into town.