ST. CHARLES – Matching, abysmal shooting performances by the St. Charles East and St. Charles North girls basketball teams in the first half made Saturday night's game seem like it would be a grind-it-out-affair to the finish.
The host Saints dispelled that notion soon after the second half began. East found another gear in the third quarter, turning a one-point halftime deficit into a comfortable lead before finishing off the North Stars, 53-38, for an Upstate Eight Conference River win.
"In the second half, we definitely picked it up," East forward Kyra Washington said. "We were talking more on defense because in the first half, we were not talking, everyone was just frazzled. In the second half, it was much better."
While East (3-4, 2-0 UEC River) found its shooting legs in the third quarter, Saints coach Lori Drumtra pointed to the other end of the floor in identifying how her team brushed aside its funk against the reeling North Stars (0-8, 0-3 UEC River).
North, despite going without a field goal in the first quarter, led 17-16, at halftime.
"It was just a horrendous shooting half – 2-for-27, it's like, OK, c'mon, it's got to get better than that," Drumtra said. "I was more concerned about our fouls and our defensive pressure up on top, so that's what we talked about at halftime was increasing the pressure on them on our 1-3-1, trying to trap, trying to make them throw the ball away, and I think that was the turnaround.
"I think we shot a little bit better, but I think we shot a little bit better because we got some defensive turnovers that we were able to convert."
An Alex Silverman jumper early in the third quarter have North a 19-18 lead that would be its last advantage of the night. Four straight points from senior guard Carly Pottle started the Saints on their way, and Pottle drilled a three-pointer to beat the third quarter buzzer that sent her pumping her first toward the Saints' bench with her team leading, 38-24.
Pottle, who also drained a three on the first possession of the fourth quarter, finished with 12 points, second on the team to senior guard Paige Jordan (19).
The springy Washington added 11 points and 14 rebounds, with 10 of her rebounds coming in the first half.
"I'm always looking forward to getting more rebounds than points," Washington said.
Drumtra was encouraged by her team's scoring distribution, especially considering starting point guard Amanda Hilton missed her second straight game while in California playing a travel soccer tournament. Hilton will have to sit the next game and a half upon her return, per team rules, as the Saints turn their attention to next week's games against West Chicago and Geneva.
North had nobody in double figures offensively. Silverman (nine points), senior Natalie Winkates (seven) and sophomore Ashling Davern (six points, seven rebounds) paced the North Stars.
"What we just need to work on is our mental toughness and our ability to be resilient when a team does something well," said North coach Colleen Backer, who shared the microphone with Drumtra before the game in a breast cancer awareness ceremony.
North has yet to play a home game but will open a five-game homestand on Tuesday against Grayslake Central. Backer hopes the home cooking affords her team a fresh start after the winless first few weeks.
"It's a great group of kids, but it takes a lot of character to kind of deal with a situation like that for everyone," Backer said.