Even though at times it turned into the Tyler Carlson show, the night ended up belonging to Rockford Lutheran.
The Crusaders used a second-half surge Tuesday to defeat Kaneland 76-61 in the semifinals of the Class 3A Hampshire Sectional.
Rockford Lutheran (28-3) advanced to play the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between Sycamore and Marian Central.
For Kaneland (18-10), the first half was dominated by Carlson. The Knights’ senior shot 10-of-12 for 29 points and single-handedly put the Knights on top 37-26 at the half. Carlson finished with 38 points.
“Everything I put up was going in,” Carlson said. “It was such a great feeling knowing that every shot seemed to fall. My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball.”
Based on the way Rockford Lutheran has played this season, losing only three games by a combined four points, you knew a different Crusader team would come out in the second half.
That is exactly what happened. Rockford Lutheran outscored Kaneland 31-11 in the third quarter and 50-24 in the second half en route to the victory.
“Tyler Carlson was very special in the first half and we needed to make a change defensively,” Rockford Lutheran coach Tom Guse said. “We were able to slow him down in the second half after switching up on defense.
“I thought we definitely answered the bell in the second half and am excited to move on.”
The defensive change in the second half for Rockford Lutheran came in the form of James Robinson, whose task was to cool down the red-hot Carlson. Robinson, a senior, was up to the challenge. Carlson only took two shots in the third quarter and was held to a single point.
“We really played badly in the first half and definitely needed to change things up,” Robinson said. “We picked up the intensity in the second half, which resulted in some quick offensive chances.”
The Crusaders’ stellar second-half defense resulted in an offensive spurt as Rockford Lutheran shot a staggering 12-of-14 in the third quarter to take control.
Rockford Lutheran was led by Thomas Kopelman with 21 points and Joseph Kellen with 19.
Kaneland was able to pull to within two points with 5:51 left, but was held without a point the next four minutes.
“We were too loose with the ball,” Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said. “We were so pumped up at halftime and they adjusted well in the second half. I’m proud of what the young men did this season.”