NAPERVILLE – Points at the beginning of a game count just the same as points at the end, a fact that tripped up the St. Charles East boys basketball team Saturday night at the Naperville North Shootout.
After a lackluster start against the host Huskies, the Saints rallied from a 10-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to take a two-point lead with four minutes to play. The Saints simply couldn't maintain their momentum down the stretch in a 63-59 defeat.
“We did not play hard enough from the beginning,” East coach Pat Woods said. “We weren’t ready to play once again. … I don’t know if we’re thinking we’re better than we are in the locker room or what.”
Woods was asked if the Saints (10-7) also still were searching for an identity after the loss of star Kendall Stephens for the season with a shoulder injury.
“No doubt,” Woods responded. “We’re still trying to find our way and we haven’t yet. Hopefully we will by next Friday when we play St. Charles North.”
East is 2-3 without Stephens and his nearly 20 points per game average, and is still searching for players to pick up some of that scoring slack. Sophomore guard Cole Gentry did his part against the Huskies (10-6), scoring a career-high 31 points.
“We fought well in the fourth,” Gentry said. “I just [think] we didn’t have the same intensity we had in the fourth quarter throughout the game. We dug ourselves a hole. We had to come back out of it and when you come back from that big of a hole, you’re going to be tired, so I don’t think we had the energy to sustain [our momentum].”
The Saints trailed by just two points midway through the second quarter, but a 7-0 run by Naperville North put East behind, 22-13. At that point, Gentry had yet to score and East’s other primary scoring threat, junior guard Dom Adduci, had yet to find his shooting touch.
“My mentality is to attack the whole game,” Gentry said. “When I noticed [Adduci] was a little off, I just figured I’d go to the basket to try to draw some fouls and get to the free-throw line because that’s easy points.”
Gentry did just that, going a perfect 9 for 9 from the foul line. But the Huskies won the battle of free throws, hitting on 27 of 32 attempts (91 percent) compared with East‘s 12 of 17 (71 percent). Naperville North senior Bryan LoLordo matched Gentry, hitting all nine of his free throws, including eight in the final 3:12 of the game to help seal East’s fate.
Adduci scored 16 points despite going just 2 for 11 from beyond the arc. He hit a pair of treys midway through the fourth, however, to give the Saints a 50-48 lead. Woods lamented East’s shot selection on its next possession, a quick 3-point try.
“We took a really bad shot,” he said. “We didn’t manage the game very well.”
One thing Woods was happy with was the way the Saints crashed the boards, collecting 15 offensive rebounds.
Senior Ben Skoog led the East rebounding effort with eight boards, including seven on the offensive end.
“That’s been a point of emphasis for us since the start of the season,” Woods said. “There’s a few games where we might have had a lapse, but I think for the most part of this year we’ve been pretty good at rebounding.”
Derek Westman, a 6-foot-3 senior, grabbed nine rebounds for Naperville North to go along with a team-high 17 points.