KANKAKEE — Illiana Christian shook off a subpar first half and took control in the third quarter against Peotone in Thursday’s championship game of the Kankakee Holiday Tournament.
The big third quarter propelled the Vikings to a 56-49 victory over Peotone to win the small-school title for the second straight year.
“It was great, and it’s always a good time to win,” said senior Chandler Kimmel, who had a game-high 19 points.
Illiana (12-3) opened the third with an 8-3 run to take a 33-27 lead with 4 minutes and 22 seconds left in the quarter. Bo Hofstra then got a rebound bucket and Jon Gibson hit a 3-pointer from the left side to balloon the lead to 38-29 at the 2:45 mark.
“We picked up the pace a little bit,” said tournament MVP Matthew Zandstra, who finished with 13 points. “In the locker room we made a few changes. We started to setting more screens for each other to get open, and we moved around on offense more to get it going.”
The Vikings led 43-33 after three quarters, and Peotone got no closer than six points the rest of the way. Hofstra finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, and he was named to the all-tournament team along with Kimmel, who had four 3-pointers, and Zandstra.
Illiana won the title for the third time, winning its first crown in 2005.
“We had the mindset to come in here and win it, and we did that so we feel confident and excited,” Zandstra said.
Illiana coach Grant Sikkema credited the team defense for getting the repeat title.
“Peotone is a tough team and can be very high-scoring,” he said. “They’ve got some excellent shooters and some guys that can drive. I think our defense was the difference (Thursday)..
“That’s something we’ve been looking for from this team for a little while this season, and I think they really stepped up defensively and it feels good.”
The Vikings were fortunate to have the lead at halftime, as Ethan Beezhold converted a layup at the buzzer off a fast break to give them a 25-24 advantage.
“It was really nice to have the momentum going into the second half,” Zandstra said.
They shot 8 of 19 from the floor and committed an uncharacteristic nine turnovers in the half.
Junior center Samuel Vree picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and was on the bench for the remainder of the half. Zandstra also was saddled with two fouls late in the second.
Illiana was able to maintain a 12-11 advantage at the first stop, but Peotone took a 17-15 lead with 3:32 left in the second quarter. Peotone lead 21-17 at the 2:13 mark.
Illiana closed the half with a 8-3 run to grab the lead.
“Our kids were strong enough with the ball (Thursday), and we were head up enough and made the plays we needed to for the victory,” Sikkema said. “Second time a row.”