SYCAMORE – It's nets one night, Ness the next.
Every day, it seems, is a feel good day for Sandwich girls basketball this season.
This one belonged to Josie Ness.
Sandwich's freshman post had the night of her young career, at a most opportune moment. Ness scored 19 points and pulled down 23 rebounds to power the Indians past Plano 46-42 in a Class 3A Sycamore Regional game.
Check off another box.
Sandwich (16-10) has its first winning season in 26 years, first-ever Interstate Eight Conference championship – and now, finally, a win over Plano after three losses during the season.
"It's amazing," Ness said. "We're rivals. It's always a close game."
Indeed it has been.
Plano won the three regular-season meetings by a combined 11 points. The Reapers led almost the entire first half, Sandwich led 21-20 at half and extended it to 15 early in the fourth quarter.
And then hung on for dear life, despite losing Maddie Dawson in the first quarter and later Sarah Ness, who scored 12 points and had seven rebounds and six steals, to fouls midway through the fourth quarter.
"Relief is a good word," Sandwich coach Chris Johnson said with a smile. "We built up that lead, and things weren't going our way at the end. But the girls all picked up for each other. When you lose your top rebounder and second-leading scorer and ballhandler you got to have other people step up."
It's been that kind of magical season in Sandwich.
The Indians, remarkably, were 6-22 only a year ago. The program had just seven winning seasons prior to this one, the last in 1991-91.
On Sunday, a rare Sunday in the gym, Sandwich's players signed jerseys and basketballs for parents, coaches and the display case – and then each player, varsity and JV, climbed the ladder to cut down the nets.
"So many special things have happened," Johnson said. "They got to do something that they've done and they may never get to do again. It [cutting down the nets] was a surprise they weren't ready for, another positive thing."
Josie Ness may be young, but she has an idea how special this is.
Her mom, Elizabeth [Quinlan] Ness played for Sandwich in the 1980s, and so have older sisters Emily and teammate Sarah.
"Walking into this year, we wanted a somewhat winning season," Ness said. "Our first goal was to win half our games, to win more than last year and we definitely did. We can't be any prouder."
Ness, one of three Sandwich underclassmen named to the all-conference team, gave a sample of the program's bright future Monday.
She scored five of Sandwich's last seven points of the first half – her older sister had the other two – then took over in the third quarter. Ness scored 12 of her 19 points, making six straight shots, repeatedly taking a post pass and dropping in short jumpers.'
"They put me in the lane because I'm the tallest and we run 'Princeton,'" Ness said. "That's to make the post get open or to get backdoors open. The middle was just open and I was hitting my shots tonight. So I kept shooting."
Ness stopped making shots down the stretch, but didn't stop rebounding. Plano, which has struggled with opponents with size this season, had no answer.
"She's a freshman, but I want to check her driver's license. She looks like she's 20 or 22 years old out there with the physicality," Plano coach John Chernick said, and he was probably only half-kidding. "We're undersized, we don't have a lot of depth. If we don't put pressure on the ball it's awful tough for our post players to hang in there."
Maddie Jude scored 11 points, MaKenzie Vann scored nine and Lexie Tisberger had 13 rebounds for Plano (16-11).
"You beat a team by three points twice and five points once, sometimes it's about getting breaks. Tonight they fell their way," Chernick said. "Sandwich's girls played hard, they played physical and they hit shots when they needed them. All the credit to them."