St. Charles North hosts the top two teams in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division this weekend, prompting coach Colleen Backer to wish the North Stars their own luck against Streamwood and St. Charles East.
Still, Backer knows it will take more than good fortune to top the Sabres tonight and the Saints on Saturday, and she's plenty confident in her team's skill, too.
North is 5-5 since an 0-8 start, navigating a prolonged stretch without junior post Liz McNally (back) as underclassmen have greeted the challenge of more minutes. Sophomore guard Sam Novak has led the charge, emerging alongside senior Alex Silverman as a leader in the backcourt.
"The more experience that you have, especially with a young team that doesn't have a lot of varsity experience, your hope is to see more and more progress," Backer said. "Obviously, with our really competitive schedule, we're playing against a lot of talent and a lot of experience. But I think that we are handling it better as of late. We're excited about this weekend and the second half of conference."
Backer said McNally, a 6-foot-3 junior who entered the season with back concerns, recently received promising feedback from her doctor and could return to the lineup soon. Streamwood and East have their share of effective posts, but are mostly guard-oriented.
Batavia-Geneva big as usual
Even if the Sabres and Saints – both 5-1 in conference – hold serve at North, the winner of tonight's Geneva at Batavia game still will be in strong position in the River race.
The loser might not slip so far, either.
Batavia and Geneva enter play with 4-2 conference records, with the Vikings owning the current edge based on a 60-56 home win in November. The Bulldogs struggled in the closing moments that night, and are eager for a second chance on their own court, especially after handling the Saints, 74-49, at home on Tuesday.
"We're really, really excited. It's something that we've been looking forward to, obviously, and the last one didn't turn out how we wanted to," Batavia junior guard Liza Fruendt said. "But this [East] win really helped us and it gave us a lot of momentum going into [today]. … We've got a whole different energy that's really just clicking."
Martinez plays Royal foil
Plano coach Mario Serra is friends with former Rosary coach Dave Beebe, and their relationship factored in to the teams' recent nonconference series.
Whether the Reapers and Royals keep playing through the Jessie Wilcox era at Rosary remains to be seen. If Plano's Jan. 4 win marked its last appearance at the M.L. Kunold Athletic Facility for awhile, the Reapers' Clarisa Martinez definitely made a lasting impression with 11 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
A 6-3 junior post, Martinez allowed Plano to maintain its up-tempo style despite trailing for much of the first half.
"We know that we can pressure because if we get beat, she's back there and she's going to change shots," Serra said. "And If she gets a foul, she'll get four blocks for every one foul, and I can live with that."
IN THE GROOVE
Batavia, Jr., G
What she did: Although St. Charles East coach Lori Drumtra said Fruendt's Tuesday outburst "felt like 40 [points]," Fruendt tallied a mere 28 as the Bulldogs handed the Saints their first Upstate Eight Conference River Division defeat, 74-49.
Kaneland, Sr., F/G
What she did: Prost scored a team-high 16 points in Tuesday's 54-47, overtime victory against visiting Northern Illinois Big 12 East foe Rochelle, including the tying basket that forced OT.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
The Upstate Eight Conference River Division champion won't have an unblemished league record. St. Charles East fell to 5-1 in the UEC River after losing at Batavia on Tuesday, but the Saints currently hold the tiebreaker with Streamwood (5-1 UEC River) after a head-to-head victory last month. Geneva and Batavia, who meet in B-Town tonight, also are in the title hunt.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
How Burlington Central fares against Rockford Christian in the teams' second meeting this season. The Royal Lions provided the biggest threat to BC's perfect Big Northern East record to date, falling, 37-33, in early December. Rockford Christian hosts the rematch Tuesday.
COACH SLY SEZ
Sly's eager to see whether Kaneland can conquer its offensive consistencies. Here's hoping the Knights aren't scoring in the 50s of late simply in solidarity with this unseasonable weather.
The 'D' seems like it will be here to stay, but the Knights have been talking about shooting and scoring more sharply for awhile now.
Beating BC this past weekend was a big step, and this week's OT win against Rochelle figures to get the team on the right track, too. Now it's about staying consistent as the team gets ready for the stretch run.