Sycamore girls basketball coach Adam Wickness wanted to throw something different at Yorkville, and for almost three quarters it worked.
Eventually, the Foxes figured out the 2-3 zone of the Spartans, went on an 18-5 run in a 54-47 win.
"I thought we came out in the first half an executed our game plan exactly the way we drew it up," Wickness said. "We knew this was a talented Yorkville team and we wanted to limit what they could do inside."
That meant a 2-3 zone to try to limit the inside presence of the 6-foot, 1-inch Katie Nolan and the 6-0 Lindsay Harrison. For most of the first three quarters, the Spartans (6-3 overall, 1-2 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) kept the Foxes (8-1, 3-0) at bay.
They led as much as six in the third quarter, but after Darely Duarte hit a jumper with 2:08 left in the frame, Yorkville responded by scoring eight straight to close the quarter. The Foxes never trailed again.
The Spartans trailed 46-41 in the final 3 minutes when Kate Majerus came up with a steal as they looked to make it a one-possession game. But after Taryn Mathey missed a 3-pointer – the Spartans were 0 for 18 from beyond the arc to finish the game – Hayley Farren connected on a 3-pointer to expand the lead back to eight. Sycamore didn't get within five the rest of the way.
"You could hear us just take a big breath and relax after that," Yorkville coach Kim Wensits said. "It was getting tense, but that kind of changed a lot. And it was good to see Hayley make that shot. She's missed a long stretch – this was her first game of the year. So for her to come back and contribute five big points is great to see."
Wensits said this was the first zone the Foxes have seen for the length of a game, adding that she expected the Spartans to switch out of late. Wickness said he somewhat second-guessed himself about staying in the zone for too long.
It was effective early. After Yorkville built up a 13-7 lead in the first, Sycamore scored nine straight to take the lead. They'd hold the lead until the run by the Foxes to close the third quarter.
One of the players to take advantage of the zone, Wensits said, was 5-foot-1 Audrey Macciomei. She hit the bucket that drew the Foxes to within 36-34 late in the third, assisted on the tying bucket, and hit the 3-pointer on the next possession that put Yorkville ahead for good.
Kylie Fuererbach led all scorers with 21 points. The 5-foot-11 freshman was effective driving into the lane for layups even against the large Yorkville defense. Mathey led the Spartans with six rebounds.
Lauren Daffenberg led the Foxes with 15 points, Harrison scored 12 and Nolan 11 to go with a game-high eight rebounds.
The Foxes will begin play in the Ottawa Christmas Classic on Saturday, opening with a 10:30 a.m. game against LaSalle-Peru before facing Newark at 4:30 p.m.