SCHAUMBURG – St. Charles East senior guard Carly Pottle conceded the difficulty of coming up for air in the Schaumburg Thanksgiving Girls Basketball Tournament.
After the host Saxons – their opponent in Tuesday's season opener – the Saints encounter a roster of traditional powers that includes Montini, Rockford Boylan and Wheaton Warrenville South in the next 10 days.
A 13-0, third-quarter run against Schaumburg temporarily left East thinking about a dominating sprint to the finish. Then the Saxons awoke from their own lull, turning the tables to register a 66-58 win.
"They just outhustled us," Pottle said. "We had an 11-point lead and we should have just stepped back to keep our momentum. We just missed a lot of good shots, but what can we do, right?"
Schaumburg boasted four double-figure scorers, led by senior guards Amanda Kelly (20 points) and Riley Williams (14).
After falling behind, 48-37, on the heels of the Saints' 13-0 run, the Saxons varied their defensive looks and attacked a smaller East lineup.
Schaumburg's 10-2 run to close the third quarter pulled the team to within 50-45, and the Saxons outscored the Saints, 21-8, after that.
"When the going gets tough, you've got to confide in your team," Schaumburg senior Jasmine Bethea said. "We just stayed strong and hustled through. We could do it. We never doubted ourselves for a second."
Saints coach Lori Drumtra criticized herself for some lineup shuffling after East's energy and Pottle's hot hand (12 of her 14 points came in the second half) provided a boost after the break.
With 6-foot-1 sophomore Kyra Washington needing a breather – and playing with three fouls – Drumtra turned to a deep core of guards. With Washington's defensive range and shot-altering ability on the bench, the Saxons starting striking in the paint.
Schaumburg's penetration also worked in other ways and helped give the team the lead for good. The Saxons corralled a rebound of an inside shot and found an open Kelly behind the three-point arc on the left baseline with 3:27 to play.
Her trey gave Schaumburg a 55-54 advantage.
A Pottle bank shot with 2:41 remaining put the Saints behind, 57-56, but they came no closer as prolonged shooting and rebounding struggles caught up. While guards Paige Jordan (15 points) and Amanda Hilton (12) also finished in double figures, East struggled to establish an inside threat beyond Washington (eight points, four blocks) when she was out of the lineup.
"Because we're a small team," Pottle said, "we have to be aggressive to get the ball."
Drumtra, a social studies teacher at East, didn't need her job description to have a pulse on the history between the Saints and Saxons.
East defeated Schaumburg by 11 at last season's Thanksgiving tournament before the Saxons rolled by 24 at the Wheaton North tournament about a month later.
The Saints stumbled at the free-throw line in the third and most important meeting, converting 2 of 8 foul shots in the fourth quarter of a 4A Bartlett Regional semifinal. East led, 43-39, with 4:16 to play in an eventual 51-45 loss.
"I think Schaumburg takes it to you. They make you fight for every point you get and it's going to be kind of black and blue," Drumtra said. "I think for the first game, it kind of took us aback a little bit, surprised us a little bit. So hopefully, that toughens us up a little bit for these other games. We're going to need it."